Breastfeeding is known to provide a number of important nutritional and health benefits to your baby. That being said, breastfeeding over the long term hasn’t been shown to provide significant health benefits to the child. That doesn’t mean that extended breastfeeding past the first two years of life shouldn’t be done, it just means that the most compelling reason to breastfeed – better nutrition for your baby – disappears.
Some experts believe that a child should let you know when they’re ready to stop breastfeeding, and that may happen somewhere between the ages of two and seven. In fact, there are many cultures in which babies are breastfed well past the age of 2.
That said, there are also cultures where breastfeeding past the age of 2 is considered taboo. There is also some research that suggests children who are only breastfed past the age of one year – and don’t also have their diet supplemented with other foods – may face issues with malnutrition.
Here again, that doesn’t mean you should stop breastfeeding at the age of one; it just means that you need to make sure your child’s nutritional needs are being met.
Breastfeeding after the age of 2 is generally considered to be intended for purposes other than nutrition or health. It helps with concerns of bonding, comfort, security, and more.
Many moms taper off breastfeeding as time goes on. About eight out of ten moms attempt to breastfeed at birth. By the time the child reaches one year of age, only about 3 out of 10 women are still breastfeeding. At 2 years, it goes down to 1 out of 20 women.
The World Health Organization recommends babies be breastfed for a minimum of 2 years.
Breastfeeding over the long term can actually benefit a mother’s health. For each year of breastfeeding, a woman’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes at some point decreases by 15%.
When you’re trying to decide how long to breastfeed, make sure to take into account all of these issues, and more. No one else can tell you what’s right for your child; make your decision, and do so proudly.