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How Long Should I Breastfeed?

 Here are some important facts about breastfeeding beyond 6 months or even one year.

  • The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) recommends a mother breastfeed for at least the first year of the baby’s life.
  • The WHO (World Health Organization) recommends a baby breastfeed for at least 2 years.
  • Breastmilk remains an important part of the baby’s diet for the entire first year and will remain about 75% of his diet at 12 months.  It is important that he has iron rich foods introduced and solid foods will be at least 25% of his diet by one year.
  • The benefits of breastfeeding do not suddenly end when a baby turns one year old.
  • As long as you breastfeed, your baby gets valuable immunities, as well as the security and emotional benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Breastmilk changes to meet your growing baby’s needs.  Levels of certain antibodies (disease fighting ingredients) actually increase as your baby gets older. 
  • Weaning is a decision only you can make, and it depends on how long you feel comfortable breastfeeding.
  • There are many benefits for breastfeeding a year or longer and very few benefits for weaning early.

 

More benefits for nursing one year and beyond:

  • Your baby continues to get protection from disease and infection.
  • You have a built-in comfort measure for when he is sick, hurt or frightened.
  • It lowers your risk of certain cancers: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, and endometrial cancer. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protection. 
  • Breastfeeding offers protection against allergies.
  • Breastfeeding makes the care of a toddler much easier: there is no better way to ease a temper tantrum, or put a toddler to sleep.
  • Breastfeeding provides closeness, security, and stability during a period of rapid growth and development.
  • As long as you are breastfeeding, it continues to provide important nutrients (-- Dewey 2001).


In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:

    • 43% of protein requirements
    • 36% of calcium requirements
    • 75% of vitamin A requirements
    • 76% of folate requirements
    • 94% of vitamin B12 requirements
    • 60% of vitamin C requirements
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians notes that children weaned before two years of age are at increased risk of illness (AAFP 2001).
  • A US Surgeon General has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two. (Novello 1990)

 

 

Adapted with Permission from the Foundation for a Breastfeeding Culture