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My mom told me that she only breast fed us for 3 months and then went to pumping + formula, because she was told that 3 months is how long it takes a baby to get all the nutrients it is going to get from breast milk. Well, seeing as how women breast feed for well over a year+ I'm assuming that isn't right. So I'm just wondering, how long is long enough?
From my point of view, it's a little more complicated than that. When you're talking about pumping and supplementing, well, you can do that at any time. Some moms exclusively pump from the first day thier baby is born (not an easy task). Of course, you can also use formula from day 1, or supplement at any point.
The reccomendations are at least a year, which I believe the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) reccomends and I know WHO (World Health Organization) reccomends at least 2 years. Even once a baby is on solids, they are still get MANY benefits from breastmilk. It still benefits them nutritionally, and they get a ton of vitamins from your breastmilk, just like any food they would eat, but better since it's made just for thier needs. Breastmilk also provides antibodies, which continues to build and strengthen an infant and toddler's immune system. I think what your mom is referring to is that those first 3 months are very important for a child's immune system. That is when it's the weakest, and needs the antibodies to help build it up. They still continue to work long after that though. Your baby will still get all the same nutrients though from the time they are a baby until they're a toddler, even if they are on more solids. I have to ask, if she felt that breastmilk lost it's nutritional value at 3 months, why bother pumping then? Obviously she knew better, otherwise she wouldn't have gone through the extra step of pumping and feeding you bottles. 20-30 years ago, things were very different with breastfeeding though. It wasn't as common as it is now, and there was a lot more misinformation given to moms. My MIL also only breastfed for 3 months, but went straight to solids from there. Yikes! I don't know any doctors that would reccomend something like that now.
Breastfeeding is also about bonding, and usually, once that's established, it's the hardest part of weaning. My 21 month old DD still nurses and even though it has benefits nutritionally, she does it simply for comfort. She enjoys being close to me and that is her way of asking me to be there for her. That's my way of spending some special time with her, and letting her know, that I'm there for her. Once a baby is old enough to rely solely on solid foods, usually it's just the comfort nursings that remain.
When to wean isn't something you need to make a decision about now, just keep an open mind. Most moms who are nursing toddlers never had the intention of it. When DD was born, I said I would wean her when she got her first tooth. We are far past that, so I guess I was wrong! Then I was going to wean her at a year, but I didn't realize what it would be like and how I would feel until I got to that point. Now, I'm just open to the idea of letting her wean when she'll be ready.
The other girls are pretty spot on. In fact, breastmilk is ever changing, always tailoring to the needs of the baby. As the baby grows older, your milk will tailor to their needs, providing the perfect nutrition at any age, at any developmental stage. In many studies, it shows breastfeeding is crucial throughout the first year of life, and many show that benefit extends even into the second and third year of life. Furthermore, the antibodies actually increase into toddlerhood (beyond a year), showing that they actually receive a HUGE benefit at that age. AND to top it all off, it continues to provide essential nutrients critical to development, particularly of the brain.
Whats also really interesting is that breastmilk not only helps babies stay healthier b/c of the antibodies, but also b/c of the Ph of the gut, something that even one small supplementation of formula can throw off. After just one supplementation, it can take months of EBFing to restore the proper Ph to the gut of an infant!!!
And finally - we've all heard the statistics about BFing reducing you & your baby's risks of breast cancer. That benefit is most solidly supported when BFing occurs for at least a year, and the benefits continue to rise through the age of at least 2! So the longer you nurse, the less likely you & your baby are to get breast cancer!
The AAP suggests breastfeeding for AT LEAST a year, the WHO for at least 2 yrs.
Unfortunately, our mothers generation not only had very low BFing rates, but there was a LOT of misinformation around
I think aiming for the year is a good goal. And once you get there you will probably find its much easier to just continue nursing. At a year you can also give them regular milk if you would like a long with nursing. I weaned my son by two and most likely will do the same with the new baby unless they have plans to give it up before then.