Advice Column, Baby, Breastfeeding, Pregnancy & Baby, Recently, Toddler

How long should a mother breastfeed for

  • My Breastpump
  • Category Advice Column, Baby, Breastfeeding, Pregnancy & Baby, Recently, Toddler

As a lactation consultant I often get asked how long should a mother breast feed for? The World Health Organisation have had the recommendation of: exclusive breast feeding for 6 months and prolong breast feeding for 2 year or longer for a while now.  This guideline is very helpful for mothers to realise what is considered normal and beneficial to both mom and the baby. Breastfeeding is seen as the normal way of feeding a baby. Study after study has show in increasing clarity how beneficial breast feeding is to baby and mom. Prolonged breast feeding of 2 years or longer is due to the continued benefits. Mothers can now feel assured that they can breast feed their baby for as long as they both desire with positive health benefits due to breastfeeding for the entire time. 

Human breast milk has a unique composition that is rich in antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory agents and living leukocytes all these components contribute to helping the child’s immune system develop. Breastmilk is dynamic and it changes to meet the needs of a growing or ill infant. Studies of exclusive breast feeding over 6 months have shown lower rates of respiratory tract infections, severe diarrhoea, otitis media and obesity. Let’s unpack that for a child that is living in South Africa. The under 5 stunting rate in South Africa is 27%, which is above the world average. Stunting is an indicator of long-standing undernutrition. With breast feeding for longer we would be able to reduce this statistic. The illnesses mentioned above have major effects on children’s growth and development specifically if they happen often. Breast feeding helps to prevent these illnesses and help to promote better growth and development of children.  For example, a child that has reoccurring ear infections this can affect they way that they hear. Causing them to have delayed speech or to miss hear sounds. This can have a negative affect on the child’s speech and learning. 

The health benefits are for all babies that are breast feed and not just those that have lower social economic backgrounds. Mothers who breast feed for longer than 6 months have a reduced risk of developing diabetes by half even if they have had gestational diabetes. Cholesterol levels can also be lowered in mothers that are breast feeding, maternal weight loss and reduced risk of different types of cancers. Baby’s skin also benefits from breast feeding as there is a reduced risk of skin issues, allergies and eczema. The preventative effect from cancer is not just for the mother but also for the child. The mother’s immune system works with the baby’s immune system though exchange of milk and baby’s saliva to share information about health and need for immune responses. This is very important as the baby gets older and is exposed to more bacteria and viruses. 

Ways that we can assist mother with prolonged breast feeding is to be accepting. It is as simple as that. We know that there are benefits for both the mom and baby- I would also like to add to the extended family as well. There is no need to comment or ask when the mother will stop breast feeding. Let mom and baby enjoy their breast-feeding time together because it the grater scheme of life it is a very short period. Shops and restaurants need to make it easier for mothers to breast feed in private or public as she feels comfortable.  In the working environment, there are guidelines that HR departments can follow to allow the mother to express at work so that the mother is able to maintain her supply when she returns to work. 

For the mom to express efficiently and effectively they need a strong breast pump like the Ameda Mya Joy. This breast pump is a hospital grade breast pump that can effectively drain and empty your breasts. This is important for mothers that are pumping at work because effective draining is key to maintaining your breast milk supply. By having a good milk supply, that you can express easily in the 30 minutes break expressing breaks, helps to keep your breast milk stash fully supplied and helps to reduce stress around pumping. Another breast pumping tip is to have a great pumping bag that can fit all your pumping equipment and a milk cooler bag that keeps your milk the correct temperature while you travel home. See the My Breastpump bag and Cooler bag on our website. 

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