How Long Should I Breastfeed My Child? – A Child Feeding Expert’s Point of View

photo by igormphotography

By: Kristen Yarker

I wanted to take the opportunity to share my perspective, as a dietitian and child feeding expert, in this discussion that Amber Clouthier started a week back.

When leading my workshop for 9 – 18 month olds, I’m often asked ‘How long should I breastfeed my child?’

Sometimes moms are planning to return to work after being on maternity leave and are wondering how to make the transition.

Other times, moms are receiving pressure from friends and family members to wean their babies (often these folks express their unsolicited opinion in an un-delicate ways).

The answer that I share with parents is actually quite simple (and perhaps surprising): From a nutrition point of view there is no age that you need to stop breastfeeding.

World Health Organization Recommendations

The recommendations from the World Health Organization that both Health Canada/ Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial health ministries have adopted is:

“Breastfeed until 2 years or beyond.”

When you first start your little one on solid foods (baby food), breast milk will meet the majority of your child’s nutrition needs. Gradually over time, other foods and beverages will play a larger and larger role in meeting your child’s nutrition needs.

Does my Toddler Benefit from Breastfeeding?

I’ve also been asked, ‘Is breastmilk still beneficial for my toddler?’ so I want to be really direct here – even after your toddler is eating meals and snacks with lots of finger foods, breast milk still provides more than just water. They’re still receiving a variety of healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and immune support. And of course there’s also the comfort and snuggle factor when breastfeeding.

From a nutrition point of view there are no hard and fast rules around when to stop breastfeeding. Some little ones wean themselves – at a wide range of ages. Some Moms stop breastfeeding because they’re returning to work. Some Moms stop because they feel “done”.

Your Opinion Matters, Just Be Nice

No matter what age you stop breastfeeding, unfortunately, you’ll likely receive judgment from people about your decision. It’s another example of how we need to stop the “mommy wars”, put away the judgment and instead celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent.

The bottom line: Breastfeed as long as you feel comfortable doing so – you are supporting your child’s nutrition needs.

What do you think about how long you should breastfeed? Check last week’s post and then weigh in on the conversation!

Kristen is a child feeding expert often referred to as The Dietitian who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids. She shows families evidence-based strategies to gets kids to try new foods on their own (without negotiations, deception, or being sneaky) to start them along a path to a life-long LOVE of healthy eating. When she’s not gardening, shopping at a farmers’ markets, cooking or entertaining Kristen’s balancing all her food related interests by taking her surfboard down off the wall (where’s it’s been collecting dust for almost 10 years) and is getting back in the water. You can also find her on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit.

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