Note: This isn’t a diatribe against people who can’t/don’t breastfeed or those who don’t breastfeed for a full year. No judgment here! It’s directed toward moms who haven’t decided how long to breastfeed or who have committed to do so at least till the one-year mark and wonder what comes next.
Recently a first-time-mom friend asked me about how long to breastfeed. Interesting, because I had just been thinking about writing something along those lines.
The main question some moms seem to have is that they plan to wean at one year, but their babies still seems very attached. They wonder: Is it OK to breastfeed past the first birthday?
The short answer is yes. Not only is it OK, it’s probably quite beneficial to baby. Many babies just aren’t ready to wean at 12 months. In its most recent breastfeeding guidelines, the American Association of Pediatrics says:
“Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother, especially in delaying return of fertility (thereby promoting optimal intervals between births).
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.”
Here’s what the World Health Organization recommends:
“Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.”
In The Vaccine Book, Dr. Robert Sears (of the well-respected Sears family of pediatricians) says:
“If you are breastfeeding, plan to do so for a minimum of one year. Two years is better. Not only will your baby catch fewer illnesses, but her immune system may be better equipped to handle vaccines.”
So if you’ve ever wondered, experts agree that breastfeeding longer than one year is just fine, even to be encouraged. If you choose to wean at 12 months, good for you for making it to that point! But if you choose to continue, go for it!
Look for part 2, the story of my mom mentor Jenny who gave me wonderful breastfeeding advice!