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How long to breasfeed for?
Your experiences please

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#1 *mylittleprince*

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:19 AM


As the title says:

How long is it "normal" to breastfeed for?

Please don't turn this into an ugly debate.

I've just read lots of conflicting information and I"d like to know how long you did it for and why.

From what I've read you breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and after solids are introduced it's a lot less and most people feed till 12 months.

I've also heard some mums feed for a long time but more for their and bubs comfort and closeness than nutritional value (as bub is getting from other sources)

What worked for you?

#2 raisins

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:22 AM

To ME, anything beyond 2 years is a bit odd. ph34r.gif

Up until then I think it's great, but I'm not a big 'extended' breastfeeding fan......

#3 ~Bambi~

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:26 AM

Its whatever works for you, in some countries normal is 5 years old, some its 6 months old.

My FIL says anything more then 4 months is weird, my DH says anything more then 3 years....

I just feed as long as I can/want to/baby wants to.

#4 Guest_MilkyBarMum_*

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:28 AM

Hi, DS#1 was on 2 feeds a day until 13 month when he self weaned.

DS#2 is 14 months and i am dropping his feeds down slowly. (we are on 4 feeds at the moment from about 6 a day)

Any where up to 12 months I think is the "norm" but really it would depend on how you feel about feeding and how bub is feeding.

I had to BF DS#1 (as my foster mum couldn't do it past 6 weeks i had to prove to her i was better then she said i was (another story) as it was a MUST for me)

I am just BFing DS#2 as see how we go, I wouldn't have mind finshing at 12 months but it is up to bub as he is underweight. (again another issue)

But it is put to you and how you feel, no one else. grin.gif

#5 meemee75

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:34 AM

How do you define " normal"

6 weeks might be "normal" for 1 person and  4 years for another shrug.gif
It's all relative.

The World Health organisation recommends for optimal health and nutritional benefits that children be breastfed for at least 2 years and beyond.

From what I've read you breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and after solids are introduced it's a lot less and most people feed till 12 months.

I guess this is what is meant to happen but  lot of women quite breastfeeding before 12 months due to various reasons.

I breastfed exclusively until 5 1/2 months then introduced solids.
DD is nearly 15months and still breastfeeding. I would be happy to wean form anytime now , but she's happy to keep going cool.gif

My story is:

I choose to breastfeed as we have a very strong history on both sides of asthma/eczema and allergies as well as me suffering multiple ear infections as a child.
After doing some research i found the incidence of these can be reduced by B/F and for me that was a huge plus. DD has mild eczema  anyway but i'm happy i've done my best not to aggravated any condition she may be pre disposed to.

I've also heard some mums feed for a long time but more for their and bubs comfort and closeness than nutritional value (as bub is getting from other sources)

I'll see if i can find it but there was a study done of toddlers and illness.
It was found that toddlers having some amount of breastmilk did not get as many colds etc as toddlers that didn't.

IMO it's great for turning grumpy, crying 14month old into happy 14 month old after they've had a feed , it's like a mood drug for my dd sometimes laugh.gif
I never planned to feed this long it just sort of happened

Edited by meemee75, 25 August 2009 - 11:35 AM.

#6 Georgie01

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:34 AM

I breastfed my babies for between 12 and 15 months with solids introduced around 6-7 months.

I don't know what's "normal", I know lots of people who've breastfed for all different lengths of time, some not at all. I guess most people I know breastfed for between 6-12 months, lots introduced formula for some feeds but kept breastfeeding as well.

The WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years, but that recommendation is focussed on third world countries where many infants don't have access to good nutrition and clean water (I'm not saying there's anything wrong with extended breastfeeding here but the consequences of stopping breastfeeding are much less significant than for babies in some countries).

#7 Sentient Puddle

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:34 AM

I fed DS until he was 19 months old and I was pregnant and quite sick and I then felt that I needed to wean him for my own health.  DD is 2.5 and we are still going strong - she feeds in the morning when she wakes and before bed (and sometimes in the middle of the day).  I think that you need to do what works for you and your family, taking into account all the goodies that breastmilk gives your child.  

I must admit that I am saddened by the fact that people find breastfeeding a toddler odd - but then again what other people think has never bothered me to the point of changing my behaviour, I just would like to live in a society that was more accepting and loving.

#8 anon60

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:37 AM

I'm not a big believer in bf past 15months. While I can understand the WHO recommendations for 3rd world countries without readily available, reliable, safe foodstuff and clean water and high rates of marasmus and kwashiorkor etc, I don't know important it is in developed countries like Aus.  Just my $AUS0.02

Edited by anon60, 25 August 2009 - 11:41 AM.

#9 ~Nessie~

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:39 AM

Only you will know what is "normal" for you.

I fed my eldest son for just over 2 years. Some people thought that was a bit weird, others thought it was normal too.

Breastfeeding decreases the risk of female specific cancers (i.e. cervical) and also reduces the risk of childhood obesity and diabetes. I figure that the longer you breastfeed, the more you reduce those risks.

For what it's worth, the WHO recommends feeding for two years at a minimum.

#10 faerymama

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:41 AM

As pp mentions, it is recommended for at least 2 years, but, 'normal is whatever is right for you.

Both my kids were exclusively breastfed for 6 months before solids were introduced.

I breastfed my DD till she was 22 months, i kind of led the weaning and now i wish i had let her stop when she was ready. I was pregnant and over it, but i really am proud that we got so far.

DS is now 22 months old himself. I'm 27 weeks pregnant and have quite happily been feeding him all throughout this pregnancy.

He has cut right back though and can go a few days without a breastfeed. Whether we tandem feed or not will be up to him, i'm happy for him to lead the way.

This is just my experience and yours might be completely different. Just don't let anyone tell you that what you're doing isn't 'normal'.

Edited by faerymama, 25 August 2009 - 11:43 AM.

#11 Bethlehem Babe

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:43 AM

"Normal" is a pretty average word.

It depends who you listen to.
Some comment on a 6 month old breastfeeding. The world health organisation recommends breast feeding until 2years, and beyond if desired.

From Breastfeeding Benefits: How They Add Up
  by Anne Smith, IBCLC  
Here Breastfeeding benefits

  If you nurse for 6 months, your baby will be much less likely to have problems with allergies, since at around that time, your baby's intestinal tract begins to produce antibodies which coat his intestines and protect him from foreign proteins and allergens.

  Mother's milk will supply all the nutrients your baby needs for at least the first six months of life, and if you have a family history of allergies, it's a good idea to wait until 6 months before introducing solid foods, as allergies are less likely to develop after this time.

  Most mothers who exclusively breastfeed for six months will not have a period during that time, and rarely ovulate. If you are nursing with no supplements or solids, you have about a 98% rate of protection against pregnancy. This only applies if you are totally breastfeeding: no water, formula, pacifiers or scheduling feedings. Most mothers will use an additional method of birth control during this time.

  Many of the studies of the protective effects of breastfeeding use the six-month mark as a cutoff. That means that researchers have found that nursing for at least six months has been shown to have protective effects against many illnesses, such as childhood cancers.

  If you nurse for 9 months, you will be helping him through one of the most important developmental periods of his young life. Babies between 6 and 9 months go through so many changes - sitting up, teething, starting solids, crawling, pulling up, and more. Even though an older baby is eating solid foods, breastmilk is still the most important part of his diet, and continues to provide him with important immunities at a time when he is crawling around and putting EVERYTHING in his mouth, including yucky, germy stuff.


Lots of research points to the beneficial effects of breast milk on a baby's intellectual development. Breastfed babies score an average of 8 points higher on IQ tests than formula-fed babies, and this seems to hold true even when things like parent's educational and socio-economic backgrounds are factored in.   If you nurse for a year, your baby will receive health benefits that last a lifetime. Long-term nursing protects against ulcerative colitis, diabetes, asthma, Crohn's disease, obesity, and high cholesterol in adulthood. Babies who are breastfed for a year or more are less likely to need speech therapy or braces later in life.

  If your baby nurses for more than a year (or until he outgrows the need), you will continue to provide him with the best form of nutrition. The fact that most babies can tolerate cow's milk after one year doesn't mean that they don't continue to get benefits from nursing. The concentration of antibodies in human milk becomes more concentrated as the volume they consume goes down.

Also from
Sustained Breastfeeding by Kate Mortensen Grad Dip (Counselling), IBCLC, NMAA Counsellor located  here ABA

What does the research say about sustained breastfeeding? ……

Immunological effects
  Sustained breastfeeding provides valuable nutritional and immunological benefits (Lawrence & Lawrence 1999). Goldman and Goldblum (1983) showed that immunologic components of breastmilk are maintained into the second year of lactation and are still providing protection to the infant. The data showed that the production of IgA antibodies operates throughout lactation. Gulick found breastfeeding was inversely associated with episodes of illness in infants. He found breastfed infants had less episodes of illness as toddlers between the ages of 16 and 30 months. Human milk continues to provide valuable nutrition and immuno-protection beyond the baby's first year. Objections to continued nursing are principally based on custom in addition to a lack of knowledge about the ongoing value of breastmilk. Lawrence states that while research documents protection and improved development for at least two years there is also a positive emotional and bonding experience with long-term nursing. "Thousands of normal healthy children are breastfed until they are three or four years old" (p 346).

Cognitive development
Enhanced cognitive development has been shown to be positively associated with duration of breastfeeding. Rogan and Gladen (1993) tested children, some of whom were breastfed up to two years, for IQ and school grades. The results showed a dose dependent relationship between higher score and duration of breastfeeding. Horwood et al (2001) studied 214 very low-birthweight children who were assessed for cognitive ability at seven to eight years. Mothers' retrospective recall of breastmilk feeding was cross checked with hospital records and child health record books were also used to aid maternal recall. Using the revised Wechsler Intelligence Scale the authors found a six point advantage in verbal IQ for infants who received breastmilk for eight months or more compared with those who did not receive breastmilk. They also found a clear and significant dose response relationship even after controlling for confounding factors. This study points to the growing body of evidence for the beneficial effect of breastmilk on cognitive development.

Obesity and nutrition
Kries (1999) in a cross-sectional study found a clear, inverse, dose-response relationship between the duration of breastfeeding and incidence of obesity and overweight. Longer breastfeeding duration was a significant protective factor, attributed to the composition of breastmilk rather than other lifestyle factors which were adjusted for. In a study of affluent United States infants, those who stopped breastfeeding before 18 months gained more weight from 12 to 24 months, but were the same in length, in comparison with the infants who breastfed for longer than 18 months (Dewey et al 1995). Whether or not this higher weight gain is an advantage is debatable in affluent populations where there is already a high number of overweight children. In a recent report, type-one diabetes was linked with higher weight gains during the first year of life (Bruining 2000). In the isolated situation where inadequate weight gain is a concern, encouraging greater consumption of good quality complementary foods is advisable rather than ceasing breastfeeding (WHO 1998).

Another study of mothers who breastfed for 12 months or more showed a more relaxed attitude to feeding their toddlers and they were less likely to exhibit high levels of control over when and what their toddlers ate and drank. The increased intake by toddlers of a variety of foods as well as the fact that these toddlers were leaner but taller was attributed to the maternal style of feeding which accompanied longer-term breastfeeding (Fisher et al 2000). The Toowoomba Children's Nutrition Study (1999) showed that breastfed infants consumed significantly less full-cream milk, soft drink, cordial and soy drinks at 12 months of age.

The study by Marangoni et al (2000) showed that concentrations of arachidonic and docosahexaenoic as well as polyunsaturated fatty acids remain stable in breastmilk through the period of breastfeeding from one month to 12 months. Research by Kent et al 1999 also showed that while breastmilk volume declined it remained a substantial part of the toddlers diet They also showed that milk production responds to infant demand throughout lactation. 500 ml/day of breastmilk can provide about one-third of the protein and energy, 45% of vitamin A, and almost all of the vitamin C that a child needs in the second year of life (WHO 1993).

Bone density
Backstrom et al (1999) followed a group of pre-term infants and found that while mineral supplementation in the short term showed better bone mineralisation, this advantage was not sustained long term. The greater the amount of breastmilk infants received, the greater bone mineral acquisition in the long term. The periods of lactation studied went up to 12 months. (This was considered a long period of lactation by the authors.) The authors recommend a long period of breastfeeding to optimise long-term bone mineral acquisition.

Sustained breastfeeding has been assumed by many to be as much a risk factor for dental caries as formula-feeding, although the research is incomplete and contradictory. Speller (2000), reviewed the evidence and concluded that, a small number of breastfed babies are more susceptible to dental decay than others. However this is due to a number of other risk factors, including excessive consumption of sugar-rich weaning foods and drinks; family history; fluoride exposure; mothers health and diet during pregnancy; prematurity and dental hygiene. Nevertheless bottle-fed babies are significantly more likely to develop caries. Further research is required into all the risk factors for dental caries.

Mother-child attachment
Breastfeeding promotes mother-child attachment and bonding which in turn may lead to a greater sense of security for the child (Fergusson & Woodward 1999; Ainsworth 1973). The emotional benefits of breastfeeding the older child were emphasised by mothers who cite them as being the most important reasons for continuing to breastfeed. (Kendall-Tackett & Sugarman 1995; Fergusson & Woodward 1999; Hills-Bonczyk 1994). Breastfeeding is both a biological and a cultural activity that is modified by a wide variety of beliefs. Beliefs about the nature of human infancy, the relationship of mother and child, mothers' work expectations, and ideas about personal independence and autonomy will affect the breastfeeding relationship (Dettwyler 1995). Reasons for weaning early can include a mistaken belief that a child will become too dependent and have difficulty separating from the mother. Ainsworth's (1973) research showed that a secure attachment to the mother through breastfeeding enabled children to form attachments to others and to become more independent than a comparable group of bottle-fed infants. In Fergusson and Woodward's (1999) study those children breastfed for a longer duration tended to perceive their mothers as more caring and less over-protective. Mothers in this study who elected to breastfeed were more likely to come from advantaged socio-economic backgrounds; however, even after adjusting for these factors, adolescent perceptions of higher maternal care were significantly associated with duration of breastfeeding.

Effects on the mother
Sustained breastfeeding also provides many benefits to the mother including lower risk of anaemia, longer periods of lactational amenorrhea, reduced risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer, promotion of postpartum weight loss and sense of personal achievement.

Research by Sinigaglia et al (1996) found that women with a median lactation of 22 months were not significantly different in bone mineral density to other matched groups who had either lactated for a shorter time or not at all. Melton et al in 1993 studied a random sample of 304 white women in the United States. showed that breastfeeding beyond eight months was associated with greater bone mineral density in later life. Reduced risk for osteoporosis has also been found in other studies with even shorter durations of breastfeeding.

Studies from China and Japan have previously shown a reduced risk for breast cancer. More recently Zheng et al (2000) showed that prolonged breastfeeding significantly reduced breast cancer risk, especially for those with a total lactation duration greater than 72 months. This duration of lactation has not been studied in Western populations leading the authors to believe that this is the reason why such a strong protective effect has not been apparent in Western studies.

Mothers find-long term breastfeeding rewarding and natural. They enjoy the close bond that develops with their child; the main difficulty was being 'strong' in the face of negative reactions. These were the main themes that emerged from a prospective longitudinal study of 82 primiparas examining attitudes and reasons for long-term breastfeeding (Hills-Bonyczyket et al 1994).


#12 mummytotwo

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:45 AM

I had no idea that the World Health Organisation was now the Third World Health Organisation.  wink.gif Maybe their recommendations for immunisation are only for third world countries too.

#13 friedwonton

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:45 AM

I bf my daughter for 15 months but really the last 3 months was to provide additional comfort and time together as that was when she was starting daycare and I was going back to work. It just got us over the difficult first few months of transition. She pretty much stopped of her own accord around 15 months. She didn't need it and weaned herself.

My paediatrician was pro demand-led feeding and weaning and encouraged us to follow that philosophy, and it worked well for us. In the first 6 months, she had access to bf whenever she wanted and from 6-12 months we had more of a routine. Then from 12- 15 months, it was just once in the morning and once at night until we slowly dropped the morning feed and then the night feed.

I hated bfing at first but grew to love it hence I went on for so long. Can't wait to meet number 2 in 3 months time and do it all over again!

#14 mummytotwo

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:45 AM

double post

Edited by mummytotwo, 25 August 2009 - 11:46 AM.

#15 boobla

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:47 AM

I plan to breast feed and had not thought very long and hard about how long for, but I am totally put off seeing children who can walk up to their mother to be breast fed, it is just weird IMO.

Again as others have said the only opinion that counts is yours, but if you look at any other creature in the animal kingdom (and yes we are just animals) mosthers usually wean their babies between 6 months to 1.5 years of age depending on the breed with Very few that go over that time frame.

#16 Dippy

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:47 AM

I breastfed exclusively till around 6-7 months, and stopped completely at around 11 months. I found that he was having trouble with his weight gain, so that was a big factor in deciding to put him on formula.

I actually found it really hard to stop BF - for me it was such an emotional thing, but my little man wasn't getting enough milk, so had to start supplimenting my supply till I stopped all together.

It's really a personal thing. BF has it's benefits, but it does mean that you have watch everything you eat and drink, so it's really up to you as to how long you can do it for, and also how long you want to do it for. Everyone is different.

#17 meemee75

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:49 AM

Thanks hoppingllama tthumbs.gif .
Saves me doing a google search

#18 Bethlehem Babe

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:50 AM

QUOTE (Dippy @ 25/08/2009, 11:47 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
It's really a personal thing. BF has it's benefits, but it does mean that you have watch everything you eat and drink, so it's really up to you as to how long you can do it for, and also how long you want to do it for. Everyone is different.

How so?
The only thing I don't do is drink, which I wasn't doing anyway...

#19 duedec

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:50 AM

I BF DS until 13 months when he self weaned - I was pregnant with #2.  I would like to have BF him for a little longer however.

Sometimes it depends on the child too.  Even if I had wanted to weaning him at 12 months would have been really hard. He was a real booby boy, so I was surprised he stopped when he did.

#20 anon60

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:52 AM

Babies who are breastfed for a year or more are less likely to need speech therapy or braces later in life.

roll2.gif Sorry.

DS3 was bf until 15months, needed both speech therapy and braces. DD was also bf for 15months and currently has braces.

I'll grant that DS1 was bf for 3 months & has invisaligns and DS2, bf for 6months, had braces.

Edited by anon60, 25 August 2009 - 11:53 AM.

#21 Sentient Puddle

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:54 AM

BF has it's benefits, but it does mean that you have watch everything you eat and drink
Not sure what you mean by this - but apart from consuming large amounts of alcohol - which I don't do anyway I have never altered my diet for breastfeeding?

This thread has also got me wondering about arbitrary cut off dates - some pps have mentioned 15 months - some 2 years - then it is "weird".  What is it about that magical time that when they are just a day older then it is somehow "wrong"?

#22 meemee75

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:57 AM

Again as others have said the only opinion that counts is yours, but if you look at any other creature in the animal kingdom (and yes we are just animals) mosthers usually wean their babies between 6 months to 1.5 years of age depending on the breed with Very few that go over that time frame.

This is a little misleading as most animals also have shorter life spans and reach sexual maturity at a much earlier age . I don't think it's comparable really.

I read some where ( will have to find it ) that natural weaning in the animal kingdom tends to coincide with teething ( permanent molars) which for humans would be 2 years  and onwards

Edited by meemee75, 25 August 2009 - 12:00 PM.

#23 mummycow

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:57 AM

World Health Organisation guidelines say to breastfeed for at least 2 years. Australian health authorities have adopted this policy too. Worldwide the average age of weaning is 4 yrs but in the west our breastfeeding rates are dismal & most babies don't even get 6 mths at the breast.

I breast fed 3 of mine for over 2 years - can't remember exactly when each stopped - and breastfed another 1 for 3 1/2 years. The latest one is just 8 wks (and fully breastfed of course). I just fed until each lost interest.

Nutritionally breastmilk is just as good for them when they are 3yrs as when they are 3mths. It is a living fluid with enzymes & antibodies impossible to get anywhere else. As a child mixes with other children & people they are exposed to lots of illnesses etc & breastmilk gives them the benefit of some of your antibodies and also the immune boosting elements of the milk to help fight anything they do catch. It is also the most complete food they will ingest, so although they are eating other foods, each is incomplete in some way & breastmilk can fill in the gaps during toddlerhood when they can be so fussy.

It is no secret that breastfeeding is also very emotionally satisfying for a child too. We tend to dismiss this aspect but nature has obviously made it this way for a reason - it is obviously important for a child's emotional development & we are probably doing them a great disservice to brush this aspect aside as being unimportant.

Breastfeeding is good for you too. It lowers your risk of breast cancer by up to 70% depending on how long you feed for. Another example of mother nature saying 'if you don't use it you lose it'. (Women who don't have children are at higher risk for uterine cancer too - uteri were designed to carry babies & boobs were made to feed them! LOL).

All the health & emotional benefits to both baby & mother still don't seem to be able to sell breastfeeding to western women so I think in this vain self-obsessed world we would have more luck getting women to breastfeed if we publicised that breastfeeding mothers require 500 more calories a day than bottle feeding mothers - so you can eat more or lose more weight when you breastfeed! wink.gif LOL

My advice is to read a really good book on breastfeeding BEFORE you have a baby (anything by Shiela Kitzinger is great) because breastfeeding is a learned art. Ever wondered why 100% of poor marginally nourished women can breastfeed in the developing world & only about 30% of educated healthy well nourished can? Our biology is exactly the same - only we don't 'know' how. When our supply is low we comp feed (even being told to do so by Drs & nurses- the 'experts') 2nd & 3rd world women know the ONLY thing that will increase suppy is feeding more often - a comp feed will lower a supply. we think our babies 'aren't getting enough' wheb they become whingey & want to feed every hour - women in traditional societies know their babies are having a growth spurt & this is how they increase your supply to meet their needs.'We' need to relearn this life giving art.

Crunchy Mama to 5 gorgeous kids

#24 anon60

Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:58 AM

15months was the time when DS3 and DD lost interest. Couldn't see the point of pressing the issue when they were on a full family diet by this point

Edited by anon60, 25 August 2009 - 11:58 AM.

#25 sleepplease

Posted 25 August 2009 - 12:00 PM

i think you'll find that in australia, in most circles, 6 months is normal, the majority of people switch to formula then. others are inclined to wait till 12 months because then you can go straight to cows milk.

i chose to feed as long as DS wants it. i have no intention of giving him cows milk or formula as a drink if i don't have to. as others have said WHO says 2years +, and i know queensland have just launched a campaign advocating 12months of breastfeeding.

DS is now 18 months and feeds three or four times in 24 hours. i admit, before kids, i thought it was weird to see a kid who could walk breastfeeding, but the more i read about it, the less weird it seems. and with your own child, you're hardly likely to wake up and go 'oh yuck, you're too old today, no more breastfeeds for you' - it just seems so natural.

don't know if you realise, but there is a breastfeeding section here on eb too original.gif i'd link you to it if i knew how lol

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