So what happens at a year? Well, according to popular belief, as your beautiful
breastfed child is sleeping the evening before their first birthday, their world
gets rocked: the next day, they will discover that breastmilk serves no purpose.
We have found a cow that makes better milk than mom.
How do you make a non-verbal one year old understand that? They are counting on
that same warmth, expression of love and wonderful nutrition that they got the
day before. What's magic about that 366th day of their life?
Now really, I know that doesn't make sense and the one- year -old is probably
confused, but I know some wonderful women who believe that even if they are
continuing to breastfeed, that the child still needs supplemental cow's milk "to get
enough nutrients." I may live in America's Dairyland where we wear cheeseheads in public, but cow's milk is for cows. And since I'm usually having
this conversation at a well visit, with the child right there, I can do a
reasonable job of convincing the family that my physical exam suggests that
their child is not a cow. Children getting human milk do not need milk from a
cow (or a goat, or an almond).
Human milk after 12 months has lower
levels of protein, calcium and long chain fatty acids when compared to the milk
given to a 3 month old, but that makes sense: 3 month olds are getting
breastmilk exclusively. A toddler is getting foods which complement the
breastmilk by adding extra protein, calcium and fatty acids to the child's diet.
Infection fighting cells are present for the duration of breastfeeding;
lactoferrin, lysozyme, immunoglobulin A and oligosaccharides increase in
concentration in human milk from 11- 17 months of age. The benefits of
breastfeeding longer than a year are not just for the baby: we know
that moms who nurse longer lower their risk of breast and other reproductive cancers.
I get it. Many people, including most healthcare providers, don't understand
why you'd want to breastfeed for more than a year. But they aren't the
to explain the cultural issues surrounding prolonged breastfeeding to a
non-verbal, often upset 15- month -old who just wants to drink milk from a human
and not a cow. Given the the massive increase in my t-shirt budget, we are
making progress in my little slice of the world. Pretty soon it won't just be
the kids that know that human milk does not lose its value at day 366.