Mother’s milk is the natural food for infants – so it has developed during centuries of human evolution. And only such nutrition is able to maintain high rates of physical and psychological development and functional maturation of a baby’s organs and systems.
There is no unified opinion concerning the duration of breastfeeding. Someone considers that breastfeeding is inexpedient after a year, someone feeds until the end of paid leave for child care, and supporters of radical views think that a baby can receive mother’s milk as long as he or she wants.
The general opinion is that during the first six months of life a baby should receive only breast milk which contains all the necessary nutrients and water. After the sixth month, breast milk remains useful for the infant, but it can’t provide all the baby’s nutritious needs, and therefore, from this age, together with mother’s milk so-called «complementary foods» are included in an infant’s diet.
The WHO Answer on How Long to Breastfeed
Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF pay a lot of attention to the continuation of breastfeeding of children over a year old, recommending supporting this process for up to two years and more.
A child in the second year eats very varied food. His diet is almost the same as an adult’s diet. The mother can breastfeed a baby once or twice per day, more often at night. But this feeding is very important because at the end of the first year and during the second year of life the intensive growth, physical and mental development of a child continues.
Therefore, breastfeeding should continue as long as possible to help the child to develop properly and harmoniously. Breast milk has a unique characteristic: at every stage of a baby’s development milk contains precisely those biological substances (hormones, growth factors, etc.), which are absent in any other baby food, and which currently ensure a child’s correct development.
For example, the milk produced by a woman who gave birth to a premature baby, during the first two weeks of breastfeeding (lactation) is close in its composition to the colostrum (“concentrate” of breast milk) that helps an infant to catch up in development.
At the last stages of lactation (its second year) milk according to the content of specific protective proteins of the immune system
– immunoglobulins, – reminds colostrum that prevents the development of a child’s infectious diseases. It means that the answer of WHO on “How long to breastfeed?” is no less than 2 years for the proper physical and mental development of the child.
The Advantages of Long Breastfeeding
• Nutritional value
• Protection against diseases
• Reducing the risk of allergic diseases
• Advantages of physical development of children
When Should you Continue Breastfeeding?
During any disease, teething, child’s indisposition, including diarrhea, because breast milk allows a baby to gain additional protective factors that help to cope with illness. It’s noticed that the children receiving women’s breast milk during the second and third years of life, recover faster from indisposition.
In the summertime, as in the summer foods spoil quicker because of high temperatures, and the risk of development of intestinal infections is higher. But even if such a disease has occurred, complementary food should be temporarily excluded and the child should be fed only with mother’s milk which would be not only nutrition but also the most valuable natural medicine. In addition, breastfeeding termination is always a stress for an organism including the digestive tract (DT).
In summer, the activity of enzymes in the digestive tract changes due to the prevalence of vegetables and fruits rather than meat and sour milk products in a diet, and the high air temperature is not favorable for a portion of high-calorie food. Thus, cancellation of breastfeeding and full transition to adult food creates additional conditions for the disorder of digestion.
Do not stop breastfeeding just before important, significant events in your life and in the life of the baby, because these events (for example, change of a residence, travel, period when the mother goes to work or study, visiting a kindergarten by the child, etc.) are a stressful factor for a small person, who is totally addicted to the established routine. But in general, continue to breastfeed as long as a mother’s intuition tells you to. It will help you to make the right decision depending on the state of the child’s health and your internal feelings.
Born in Belarus, 1985, a pedagogue and family psychologist, mother. Taking part in procedures of social adaptation of the foster children in new families. Since 2015 is a chief editor of the motherhow.com project, selecting the best and up-to-date material for those, who are planning, expecting, and already having babies.