HOW LONG SHOULD I BREASTFEED?
There is no limit on how long you should breastfeed your little one. You may breastfeed for as long as you and your baby choose. Sometimes mothers decide on a certain number of weeks or months as a breastfeeding goal before their baby’s birth. Surprising even themselves, many continue past their original goal because they love to see their baby growing so well, they are enjoying the nursing relationship, and see no reason to wean at their original preconceived goal. It is important to always pursue another opinion if told to wean for a medical reason. There are very few contraindications to breastfeeding. Most medications are compatible, or another medication can be safely substituted for the medication that is prescribed. See https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/medications-quick-guide-parents/
One of the concepts La Leche League is founded on is that “Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.” Sometimes during the first year, babies are easily distracted when nursing, or go on a “nursing strike”. With patience most babies return to breastfeeding. This temporary refusal is not a request to wean, but is a normal behavior of a healthy growing baby learning about the world.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend that babies be breastfed for at least two years.
“Review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for six months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up two years of age or beyond.” 1
As solids are introduced, usually around the middle of the first year, your baby will begin to shift his primary source of nutrition from your milk to other foods. At this early stage, it is important to remember to nurse your baby before offering solids, because breast milk continues to have much more nutrition that the small amounts of healthy solids that can be consumed.
Human milk, even in small amounts, contributes to your baby’s nutrition and health for as long as your baby receives your milk. Many of the health benefits of human milk are dose related, that is, the longer the baby receives human milk, the greater are the benefits. More health benefits of nursing for babies are continually being discovered. The great news is that nursing has very important benefits to maternal health as well. Ongoing studies have shown that the longer the breastfeeding continues, the more health benefits there are for both mother and baby.2
How long you nurse for is highly personal, and some parents find they need additional support if their baby is nursing longer than their friends and family expected them to nurse. A great place to find support for nursing little ones of any age is La Leche League meetings! There, like-minded people will support your decision to nurse as long as you and your baby choose.
Find local LLL support here.