Whether you are a new mother or you have a little pumpkin on the way, you have probably heard how stressful and time-consuming breastfeeding can be. While it might be a challenge, breastfeeding offers many valuable health benefits for both mom and baby.

Is there a right time period for breastfeeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months and continuing to nurse for at least one year after introducing solids. The vitamins and nutrients found in breast milk can solve many health issues early on in baby's life, like cradle cap and baby acne. For mommy, choosing to breastfeed can help you knock off the baby weight and can lower your risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding also creates an intimate bond like no other between mom and baby.You’re probably thinking…isn't there a “right” time to stop? Well, not exactly.

What is full-term breastfeeding?

Many moms strongly support the idea of full-term breastfeeding. Full-term breastfeeding is going the “natural route” and allowing your child to wean themselves from breast milk. When you choose to practice full-term breastfeeding, your child will usually wean between two and eight years old. Keep in mind there is no set age for weaning your child from the breast. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine affirms breastfeeding beyond infancy as the biological norm. “The average age at weaning ranges anywhere from six months to five years… Claims that breastfeeding beyond infancy is harmful to mother or infant have absolutely no medical or scientific basis,” says Arthur Eidelman, MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding for this long?

While some people may see breastfeeding beyond infancy as eccentric, the benefits of full-term breastfeeding are truly worth the persistence. The nutrients passed from mother to baby through breast milk provide protection from illness throughout a child's life. For example, many mamas wonder if they should continue to nurse if they have a cold. Most often, the answer is yes. It is extremely important to keep breastfeeding so antibodies can be passed to your child. Another reason women choose to practice full-term breastfeeding is the affordability — breast milk is free! Breastfeeding is so much cheaper than buying formula weekly and offers more health benefits. If exclusively formula feeding, costs can add up to a whopping $100 per month, at least! Aside from the health and financial benefits, breastfeeding is a useful way to console your little one. When all else fails, nursing can usually soothe an upset baby very quickly.

Final note: do what's best for you and your baby!

While full-term breastfeeding can be a daunting task, the advantages truly pay off. The nutritional value of breastfeeding combined with other benefits like cost truly make nursing full-term worth it. With all this information, the choice still remains entirely yours as to whether you let your little one choose to wean when he or she is ready or if you choose to decide for them. Remember, fed is best!