- By Candace Dantes For the AJC
It's motherhood 101: Breast is best for your new bundle of joy. However, there are few hard and fast rules on when to wean your little one from breastfeeding.
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so it’s the opportune time to take a look at some of the benefits for nursing mothers and their babies. Breastfeeding comes with advantages for both moms and infants, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Breastfeeding helps safeguard newborns against many conditions and diseases, including:
It also decreases the mother's risk of breast and ovarian cancers and encourages an earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight, experts say. But when exactly should moms and babies put an end to this natural, nutritious act? The honest answer: Whenever they want to. It's their post-pregnancy prerogative, but some international and national health organization have offered advisement on the optimum time to breastfeed:
The World Health Organization (WHO), advises mothers to engage in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months in order for newborns to grow and develop. WHO recommends continued breastfeeding - known as extended breastfeeding - until about the age of 2.
Likewise, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists suggests only breastfeeding for the first six months of life and encourages continued breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods up to age 1 or longer.
Despite the medical advantages of breastfeeding for mother and child, U.S. breastfeeding rates are only 49 percent at six months and 27 percent at 12 months, which is well below the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2020 target rates.
And while sometimes seen as unnatural (and uncomfortable to witness in public), extended breastfeeding can be beneficial up to age 4, according to doctor-led parenting site Bundoo. However, most American moms wean their child from breastfeeding by age 1.