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How Long Should you Breastfeed your Child? – A Child Feeding Expert’s Point of View

by KristenY on March 26, 2014 · 0 comments

I shared a similar post on another parenting blog. A lot of Moms reached out to me to thank me for sharing this, so I wanted to share it with you too.

When leading my workshop for 9- to 18-month-olds, I’m often asked how long you should breastfeed your child. Sometimes moms are planning to return to work after being on maternity leave, and are wondering how to make the transition. Other times, moms are receiving pressure from friends and family members to wean their babies (often these folks express their unsolicited opinion in an un-delicate ways). The answer that I share with parents is actually quite simple (and perhaps surprising): From a nutrition point of view there is no age that you need to stop breastfeeding.

The recommendations that the World Health Organization, Health Canada/Public Health Agency of Canada, and provincial health ministries have adopted is: “Breastfeed until 2 years or beyond.”

When you first start your little one on solid foods (baby food), breast milk will meet the majority of your child’s nutrition needs. Gradually over time, other foods and beverages will play a larger and larger role in meeting your child’s nutrition needs. I want to be really direct here—even after your toddler is eating meals and snacks with lots of finger foods, breast milk still provides more than just water. They are still receiving a variety of healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and immune support. And of course there’s also the comfort and snuggle factor when breastfeeding.

From a nutrition point of view, there are no hard and fast rules around when to stop breastfeeding. Some little ones wean themselves—at a wide range of ages. Some moms stop breastfeeding because they’re returning to work. Some moms stop because they feel “done”. No matter what age you stop breastfeeding, unfortunately, you’ll likely receive judgment from people about your decision. Even I can’t escape the judgment; I’ve been accused of being anti-breastfeeding because I’ve supported women who’ve asked me how to transition away from breastfeeding. It’s another example of how we need to stop the “mommy wars”, put away the judgment and instead celebrate that there are a multitude of “right” ways to parent.

The bottom line: Breastfeed as long as you feel comfortable doing so—you are supporting your child’s nutrition needs.

P.S. Dr Allison Rees (of LIFE Seminars) and I are teaming up this Saturday for a workshop called Picky Eaters and Mealtime Blues. Join us to get a power struggle free way to provide meals and snacks so your children get the nutrition they need. Register in advance to reserve your seat (and get $5 off the ticket price): http://lifeseminars.com/picky-eaters-and-mealtime-blues/

Known as The Dietitian who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids, Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD, through her business Vitamin K Nutrition Consulting, answers the question “How do I get my kids to try new foods?”. Get your (free) copy of 101 Healthy Snack Ideas (that even picky toddlers and preschoolers will eat) at: www.vitaminkconsulting.com/101snacks

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