Note: updated in November 2022.
The benefits of breastfeeding are undeniable – from building stronger immune systems and providing optimal nutrition for growing infants, to lowering the risk of certain health conditions in both mothers and breastfed babies. A question that breastfeeding mothers ask is how long is “too long” when it comes to breastfeeding their child? Or on the other hand, how long is long enough?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of age. And as of 2022, the organization officially supports continued breastfeeding until two years of age or longer (with the introduction of complementary foods at 6 months). This is in line with the World Health Organization's (WHO) recommendation as well.
Read more on the AAP's new guidance and our own Dr. Madden perspective on how it affects moms and babies.
Your Breastfeeding Timeline
Every mom will have their own breastfeeding goals. Any amount of time spent breastfeeding will be beneficial. Even a small amount of colostrum (first milk) is valuable for your child as it is packed with antibodies and the amount of nutrients needed for your baby.
That said, studies have shown that the longer a child is breastfed, the greater protection they’ll have from illnesses and long-term diseases. Breastfeeding has many health benefits for mothers, too!
There is no defined stopping point for breastfeeding your child. As long as you are comfortable with breastfeeding, your journey can continue for as long as you and your baby desire. Many experts agree that when deciding to stop, slowly and gradually weaning from breastfeeding or pumping sessions can be a good starting point.
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
Not every breastfeeding journey will look the same, nor will it always come naturally. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when preparing for or beginning your breastfeeding journey:
- Be patient with yourself and your baby.
- Seek out professional help from an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for any concerns you have.
- Ask for help from your supportive family and friends.
- Breastfeed or pump often (every 2-3 hours).Be determined and patient with yourself and your baby.
- Apply for a breast pump through your health insurance.
How long you choose to breastfeed is a decision that is solely yours to make. However, support from your partner, as well as your family and friends, will prove to be invaluable throughout your journey! Here are a few ways mothers can be supported when breastfeeding:
- Help to create a comfortable space and relaxing environment for nursing sessions.
- Assist in household chores and tasks to alleviate additional stressors such as cleaning, cooking, and laundry.
- Prepare ahead of time for the next breastfeeding or pumping session by collecting any necessary items like water, a snack, her phone, a book, blanket, milk containers, lanolin, etc.
- Always try to share supportive words or words of encouragement when she’s facing breastfeeding difficulties.
Not only is support from your loved ones essential, but support from trained professionals such as a lactation consultant, IBCLC, nurse, or your healthcare provider can be extremely helpful. Lactation consultants are trained medical experts who assist you in planning, preparing for, and troubleshooting any issues you’re having in regards to breastfeeding and pumping. They can answer all of your questions, from how much milk your baby needs and how to know if they're getting enough breast milk, to tips on how to manage engorgement or how to increase milk production. When trying to succeed, they are there to provide ample support and education for new parents.
Pumping can be especially valuable to mothers who are planning on returning to work or those who just need more flexibility in their feeding schedules. Many moms continue to successfully breastfeed their infants with the help of a breast pump.
Not only do pumps assist in prolonging your breastfeeding journey, they also aid in increasing your flexibility and help to maintain your milk supply! Fill out our quick Qualify Through Insurance Form to find out what pumps you’re eligible to receive through your health insurance.
Your Breastfeeding Experience
While we encourage every mother to attempt breastfeeding or pumping for at least a year, the most important thing is that her child is being fed. Breastfeeding, at any length, offers amazing health benefits but is a personal choice that is not always best suited for everyone. Give yourself time to practice and learn. And most importantly, remember to do what is best for you, your child, and your unique situation!
Information provided in blogs should not be used as a substitute for medical care or consultation.