For many years, breastfeeding - if it was done at all - was
thought to have been useful only until a baby reaches the age of
six months, at which time most babies experience the eruption of
their first milk teeth. As a rule, the presence of milk teeth
should not interfere with breastfeeding. If a baby does bite down
on the breast, it is likely that the baby learned to bite down
because he was given either a bottle or pacifier.
An exclusively breastfed baby has no need to bite down on the
breast. If he does bite, the mother's response is usually
startling enough to discourage him from biting down again in the
near future. Exclusively breastfed babies who have new milk teeth
should continue to breastfeed, as should older toddlers who have
all twenty milk teeth. The benefits of breastfeeding beyond six
months have been acknowledged by scientists, anthropologists, and
many mothers who know better.
Even so, there are many individuals, including physicians, who
opine that breastfeeding is only for young babies. The American
Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates a minimum of one year of
breastfeeding, but some pediatricians still do not comprehend why
a baby should be breastfed beyond early infancy, if at all. As
most parents may have learned already, pediatricians often possess
their own opinions about breastfeeding.
A respected and popular pediatrician in Los Angeles told my
friend that her six-month-old son did not need to breastfeed. He
told her confidentially, "After six months, breastfeeding's
just for the mother." In New York, my sister had a similar
experience with her baby's pediatrician. At her baby's well-child
checkups, the pediatrician expressed surprise every time my sister
reported that she was breastfeeding her infant son, even when he
was only a few months old.
Pediatricians offer infant feeding advice according to whether
or not they understand or appreciate the benefits of
breastfeeding. For some pediatricians, dispensing accurate and
positive information about breastfeeding to the parents of their
young patients may be a new and unfamiliar practice. Fortunately,
a small but growing number of pediatricians have become more vocal
in their advocacy of breastfeeding.
In truth, one should question how it is possible to think that
a growing, developing infant would thrive better on processed baby
food and artificial milk substitutes than he would on
breastfeeding. Breast milk is a living fluid that contains custom
made antibodies and a perfect assortment of nutrients, live cells,
immunologically active substances, growth factors, and much more.
Breast milk is dynamic and manufactured in response to the needs
of a growing and developing baby and toddler.
Irrefutable evidence demonstrates the benefits of breast milk,
so it should be simple to defy the preconceived notion that breast
milk becomes a useless fluid once the baby turns six months, one
year, or even five years old. Breast milk transmits directly to
nurslings the beneficial substances that support their healthy
growth and development. Simply stated, there is no food that could
possibly be more nourishing for babies and young children than
Any food, be it processed cereal, mashed fresh organic fruit,
strained vegetables, or artificial milk, cannot compare in any way
to the benefits offered by breast milk. Breast milk contains a
rich balance of over 100,000 components - proteins, lipids,
carbohydrates, vitamins and trace minerals.1
These substances support perfectly the rapid human brain growth
that occurs in early childhood: brain volume more than doubles in
the first year of life and nearly triples by the time a child is
three years old.2 In light
of the tremendous brain growth and development that occur within
the first three years of life, it is mistaken to assume that older
infants and toddlers do not need to breastfeed.