Most moms love the physical and emotional connection they experience when breastfeeding with their baby. Even if at the beginning, that means 12 feeds a day and endless sleepless nights! Of course, there are also the hidden benefits for both baby and mom.
With breastfeeding, there are cost savings and health benefits that a mother gains for herself. This includes helping her body recover from childbirth, weight loss, and emotional wellbeing. Breastfeeding has even been reported to reduce the risk of cancer and positively impact a woman’s health conditions later in life.
After a few months, the question a lot of mothers ask is, “How long should I breastfeed my baby?” The answer is of course impacted by medical, social and personal considerations. The truth is that every baby is different and the idea that there is a “normal” way to breastfeed a baby is not plausible. There is not one right answer. But let’s look at the question from some different angles.
What the Experts Say
We have written many times about the benefits of breastfeeding. The advice given by Health Canada is that if possible, maximum health benefits are achieved with exclusive breastfeeding, with no other fluids or solids, for six months. Then they recommend continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 12-24 months. After that, it is a decision for a mother and her baby.
The La Leche League website also says that the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms the World Health Organization recommendation of “exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continued breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.”
Going Back to Work
Breastfeeding is often impacted by a mother’s return to work or school. This is where a breast pump is needed. It will allow a mom to express breast milk and combine breast and bottle-feeding with the help of family, friends and childcare helpers. Even when a baby is ready to try their first solid food at six months, a mom can still carry on breastfeeding.
The Decision is Very Personal
When to stop breastfeeding is a totally personal choice. People may ask or even be critical. But a mom knows in her heart what is right for her child. On the other hand, a thousand things can happen in the first months and years of a child’s life. A mom should never feel guilty if breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Whether she breastfeeds for 2 years or 2 days, it’s best to always try. Even if breastfeeding does not work out as planned, even a few days of breast milk is important for a baby. That is when the body produces colostrum, or early milk, which is packed with immune enhancing ingredients.
If a mother and her baby are both enjoying breastfeeding, the best advice is to continue for as long as you both want. It is as simple as that. Time will go fast enough, and the act of breastfeeding is a gift worth giving for as long as possible.