How Long Should I Breastfeed?

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How Long Should I Breastfeed?
In 2001, the World Health Organisation recommended exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond.

This recommendation is based on an enormous amount of research into babies' and mothers' health and wellbeing. In all, more than 70 countries worldwide now recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continued breastfeeding for a year or more beyond. These include the US, UK and Australia.

Yet even if they advise women to breastfeed exclusively for six months and to carry on afterwards, many countries have a long way to go to meet WHO recommendations.

Here's the proportion of all mothers who are breastfeeding at six months in a selection of countries:
Bullet UK (2000) - 21 per cent
Bullet US (2003) - 32 per cent
Bullet Australia (2001) - 48 per cent
Bullet Norway (2003) - 80 per cent

Note, though, that the above figures aren't for exclusive breastfeeding.
Bullet In the UK probably only about 10% of mothers breastfeed exclusively until six months.

Breastfeeding After Six Months

There are three major advantages to breastfeeding after six months:
1. Your baby will go on receiving protection against infection. This advantage continues to eight months in developed countries, and for much longer in developing countries.
2. You and your baby probably enjoy feed times.
3. You may reduce your risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer, and of ovary cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis in later life.

How long will your milk supply last?

It'll last as long as you want if breast milk is the major source of your baby's fluid intake. However, as soon as you give him meaningful amounts of other drinks, and only one or two breastfeeds a day, it will slowly dry up. Though having said that, some women continue with only one feed a day for many months.

It isn't unusual for women who breastfeed into the second year to produce a pint (over half a litre) of milk a day. Wet nurses used to feed one baby after the other for years, and many mothers the world over feed their children or even their grandchildren for several years. The western idea that milk automatically dries up after a few months is totally wrong.

You may like to read 'Breastfeeding An Older Child'.

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