Choose what’s right for you
Ultimately, the decision on how, when and how long you breastfeed your child is up to you, and every mother’s experience will be different.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusively breastfeeding your baby until he is six months old, and then combining solids and breast milk until at least two years of age. Breast milk contains everything he needs for healthy development and breastfeeding babies should not be given any other food or drink – including water – before this age.
At around six months, you can start to introduce infant foods that contain iron, and many Mums continue with a combination of breast milk and solids for a year or two. Midwife and Lactation Consultant Verona Hall says, “If you can breastfeed for a year that is ideal, but it can be quite normal for a baby to self-wean. If a baby feeds for two years or more that’s ok too.”
She says, “As long as I don't believe it harms the child, I would support the mother. Breastfeeding is the Mum’s personal choice.”
Your baby needs some sort of milk (human, cow or soy) until they are at least two years of age, and mother’s milk is best if you choose, and are able to, continue nursing.
When breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally…
Whilst breastfeeding is a natural act, breastfeeding technique needs to be learned. Many mothers have difficulty with positioning, attaching their baby or ensuring he gets enough milk. “A lot of Mums say they can’t breastfeed but they probably haven’t received the help they need,” Verona says. “Even if you have breastfed a baby before, you tend to forget the next time around.”
You can get breastfeeding support and advice from your midwife, obstetrician or lactation consultant. Make sure you ask for the help you need – learning to breastfeed will take time and patience, but it is best for both of you in the long run. See Breastfeeding - your questions answered for some useful tips.
But I can’t continue…
Whilst breast is best, for many Mums, breastfeeding for 12 (or indeed 3) months may not be possible due to health, work or other commitments. That is ok too. Mums who can’t breastfeed have own reasons – whether they be medical or social, and shouldn’t be made to feel inadequate.
Verona says, “Mums may stop breastfeeding for many reasons. I’m happy with whatever Mum thinks is right for her and her child.”
What do you think? Share your experiences on the Supernanny Forum.