There’s no hard and fast rule about how long a baby should breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of life, and continuing on after that up through the first year, for as long as both mom and baby want to continue. The World Health Organization recommends continuing to breastfeed through two years, for as long as mom and baby want. Obviously, you and Baby can stop breastfeeding anytime you want, so usually, parents wondering how long to breastfeed are wondering how long there are health benefits to breastfeeding.
The immune system benefits that are transmitted through breast milk don’t have a definite end-date, which makes answering the question of a cut-off date difficult. During the first few months of their lives, babies’ immune systems are the most immature, and so may benefit the most from the shared immunity that comes from breastfeeding. Shared immunities and antibodies can still help protect older babies and toddlers as they grow, though. Additionally, breast milk has antimicrobial components that help to fight against infections.
After parents start to introduce complementary foods and early solids, usually around 6 months old, breast milk consumption often starts to go down on its own, although some babies continue to feed as much as before. Every family who breastfeeds is unique. Whether you and Baby breastfeed right up until the switch from breast milk to cow’s milk at age one or beyond, or the switch happens before a year old as Baby transitions to formula, having breastfed will always be an important early chapter in your lives together, and as your baby grows, you’ll find different ways to keep her growing steadily and healthily.
American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.” Pediatrics. 129(3). Web. March 2012. Web.
“Breastfeeding: Frequently Asked Questions.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 16 2015. Web.
“How long should a mother breastfeed?” La Leche League International. La Leche League International, January 9 2016. Web.
“How to decide when to stop breastfeeding.” NCT. NCT, 2016. Web.
- “Learning to breastfeed.” Women’s Health. Department of Health and Human Services. Web.