The previous (2005) version of the AAP’s (American Academy of Pediatrics) Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk document, had the following statements about breastfeeding beyond infancy (emphasis mine):
Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life, and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.
There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.
This was a very supportive statement for those of us who nurse beyond infancy, and even beyond toddlerhood into the pre-school years. I have pulled out this AAP statement many times to defend myself from those who would call breastfeeding beyond infancy not just un-beneficial, but actually harmful to children.
I have also used the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) statement from its 2008 position paper:
NURSING BEYOND INFANCY
As recommended by the WHO, breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is not the cultural norm in the United States and requires ongoing support and encouragement. It has been estimated that a natural weaning age for humans is between two and seven years. Family physicians should be knowledgeable regarding the ongoing benefits to the child of extended breastfeeding, including continued immune protection, better social adjustment, and having a sustainable food source in times of emergency. The longer women breastfeed, the greater the decrease in their risk of breast cancer. Mothers who have immigrated from cultures in which breastfeeding beyond infancy is routine should be encouraged to continue this tradition. There is no evidence that extended breastfeeding is harmful to mother or child. Breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual. If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the woman’s personal decision. If the child is younger than two years, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned. Breastfeeding the nursing child after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child.
and the AAFP 2007 policy statement also states:
Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.
The AAP has released a new and updated document today on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. The new 2012 version does not say much about extended breastfeeding, only the following:
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant, a recommendation concurred to by the WHO and the Institute of Medicine.
Mothers should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding through the first year and beyond as more and varied complementary foods are introduced.
While this is still supportive of breastfeeding beyond infancy, I wonder why this topic was not covered as fully in this revision? Was it an oversight? I would have appreciated more on this topic from the new AAP statement, not less.