This post is also available in: Svenska
Many parents are asking the question – how long should I breastfeed? And some feel compelled to provide you with assured answers. WHO has decided to recommend 6 months of full breastfeeding and part-time breastfeeding for up to 2 years of age or longer for all women in the world. Recommendations from Sweden’s Children’s Welfare Center have varied. For a while, you would definitely start with taste portions at four months of age, now you should preferably breastfeed for 6 months but start with tiny taste portions at four months.
Full-time or part-time breastfeeding, or formula?
In fact, how long to breastfeed is something that every mother-child couple should decide for themselves. If you have poor access to clean water, full breastfeeding for 6 months is life-saving for the baby. With access to clean water, there are no major health differences between full breastfeeding, part-time breastfeeding and formula feeding.
How long to breastfeed is a decision for mother and child
I decided when I breastfed the two babies I gave birth to. And I didn’t do that on my own. The children had their own strong input. But I’ve been a part of these decisions. If someone else had tried to tell me how long I should breastfeed, I wouldn’t have received it very well. For me, it has been two of the most private decisions of my life. It has been important for me to be able to decide this together with my children.
Many parents I have met on the job, many friends and many who write on the internet, share my feelings. The decision of how long you want to breastfeed your child is private and must be allowed to remain private. Family forums on the Internet are saturated with stories about how offended, angry and sad mothers have felt when someone (often a doctor or nurse) has tried to decide that they should breastfeed even when they don’t want to, or that they should stop even though they don’t want to.
Babies need food, love and help with hygiene. Love is so important. Many mothers have told me how being forced to breastfeed has prevented them from being able to cope, or able to be loving towards the baby. How an enormous sense of guilt and shame set themselves between them and the children. They were told that they were not doing what’s best in the child’s interests by not wanting to breastfeed or continuing a problematic breastfeeding. Many mothers have also told of how they completely lost confidence in a doctor who questioned the functioning of their breastfed preschooler.
Formula is acceptable
We must not let, what we think is the best, become the enemy of what is good. You will never hear me say that formula is better than breast milk, because it is not, and I don’t think it will ever be no matter how much work companies put into product development. But it’s acceptable! Acceptable enough that I will not interfere in decisions that I have nothing to do with. Part-time breastfeeding for 4, 6, 12 or 18 months is also acceptable, provided that the diet given to the child in addition to the mother’s milk is nutritious. Similarly part-time breastfeeding for years is acceptable!
(In areas with poor hygiene or dirty water, where you cannot wash bottles or do not have access to medical care and have unsafe access to formula powder, formula is not good enough. Formula is not compatible in areas with poor hygiene. I find it absolutely reprehensible to promote formula in these situations and believe it is better to do everything possible for mothers to breastfeed. Even if some of the mothers get repeated engorged breasts, have hard-to-heal nipple ulcers and get anxiety from thinking about the next breastfeeding occasion, it’s tough but it’s safer than formula powder.)
Start with other foods no later than 6 months
If breastfeeding works and the baby gains enough weight, you can safely breastfeed until 6 months of age. Then you need to start introducing other foods, especially because the iron content of breast milk is so low that the child risks iron deficiency.
Some mother-child couples like breastfeeding so much that they continue to do so for many years. There’s nothing wrong with that and that’s something that no one else should interfere with. Decisions about how long to breastfeed for is, as I said, a private matter. This is regardless of whether the breastfeeding period is long or short.