The length of time you should breastfeed your baby remains a hot and controversial topic. Everyone has a different opinion to voice and no matter what choices mums make, there are always plenty of comments and advice to listen to.
So, what’s a considered as healthy in terms of how long to breast feed?
The Swiss nursing commission advises mum to breastfeed their babies for at least 5 months to give them the right levels of balanced nutrients through their mother’s milk during their infancy. A baby’s digestive tract isn’t fully developed when they’re born, which means a baby wouldn’t be able to digest a solid apple or a piece of steak even if it had the teeth to chew these with. However, when a baby is 4 months old, they’ve developed enough to be able to eat and digest solid food.
If you breastfeed for more than 5 months, bear in mind that while breastmilk is certainly healthy, it doesn’t give babies all the nutrients they need, such as calcium, sodium, and vitamin C. In the long run, babies also need fibre and other micronutrients, which are missing from a breastfeeding diet over a longer period of time.
For this reason, paediatricians and midwives often advise breastfeeding for 6-12 months. During this period, a baby's body can develop and adjust to a normal diet.
However, neither the World Health Organization nor specialists and midwives like to specify exactly how long a woman should breast-feed her child. Ultimately, the mother has to decide for herself. Every child, mother and mother-child relationship is different and, according to the experts, there’s no right or wrong way.
What’s important for both short periods of breastfeeding or even not breastfeeding at all is that the child has a suitable replacement diet and all the love and warmth they need. For mums who breast feed for long periods of time, it’s a good idea to combine their baby’s breast milk diet with enough vitamins and minerals, like those you get from vegetables, fruits and grains.
So, the advice for mums is not to feel intimidated by all the various comments and opinions out there. Decide what you want to do and what your baby needs and wants too. Ultimately, it’s a decision that should be based on each individual mother-child relationship rather on listening to outside advice.