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How long should you breastfeed?

How long should you breastfeed? At the breast, the baby finds the ideal food for growth and an essential source of affection and reassurance. 

But once the baby is over six months old, when does the baby begin to appreciate new foods and flavours, until when to continue breastfeeding? How long should you breastfeed? Does breast milk retain its nutritional value after one year of age? And when is the right time to stop breastfeeding, breaking this unique form of relationship between mother and child?

When to stop breastfeeding? A personal choice

There are no predefined “deadlines” or times, which are the same for everyone when it comes to breastfeeding. Feedings can continue for a shorter or longer period, according to the wishes of the mother-baby couple. “The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively up to the sixth month of a baby’s life,” explains Paola Paschetto, professional consultant at the Breastfeeding Center in Biella. “Mother’s milk should then remain the leading food, to which other foods gradually approach, up to the year, and it is advisable to continue breastfeeding for the whole second year of life. After that, the WHO always states, the choice to continue and for how long,

Milk without substance? How long should you breastfeed 

“It’s water now!” and “After a year, your milk has no substance anymore.” These are just some of the observations that a mother breastfeeding a baby who has passed the first few months will easily hear. “But these are objections that have no scientific basis, clichés denied by studies and research “, explains Paola Paschetto. Not only does breast milk retain all its nutritional and immune value, but some of its characteristics are ‘enhanced’ after the first and second years of the child’s life. Recent studies have shown that breast milk becomes caloric and energetic after the first birthday because it increases in fats contained in it. As the baby grows, the antibacterial properties are also enhanced, making milk a valuable ally of the baby’s immune system.

More milk, more health! How long should you breastfeed 

There is a link between breastfeeding duration and health benefits. The longer the baby is breastfed, the more the risk of dealing with overweight and obesity problems in childhood is reduced. And for the mother, the percentage of risk of developing breast, cervical or ovarian cancer is lower. These benefits are also proportional to the duration of breastfeeding: the longer the duration, the greater the protective effect.

And on a psychological level?

One of the most common objections when breastfeeding a baby past the first few months is that breastfeeding can interfere with his path to independence. Many mothers are told that they are raising “mammoni” children. “Yet there is no study that proves these clichés,” resumes the consultant. “And until the middle of the last century, being breastfed for two or three years was the norm and still is in many cultures, without negative ‘consequences’ in terms of children’s autonomy”. Indeed, the opposite seems true: babies who have had the mother’s breast available for the desired time generally develop a secure attachment and show an excellent ability to manage new situations.

Are you too dependent on your mom?

“In our society there is such a hurry to make children autonomous. But in reality it is normal for a two-year-old child. Whether breastfed or not – to be dependent on his mother “, considers Paola Paschetto. “She has throughout her childhood to gradually become more and more independent and. In adolescence, to conquer emotional autonomy from her parents. Moreover, perhaps it is appropriate to clarify what is meaning when it comes to autonomy. Why  we surprises if a child three years old is still breastfeeding. But we do not object if, at the same age, he uses the pacifier or  carry in the stroller. Instead of walking hand in hand with his parent. Or does he have breakfast with a bottle instead of a cup? “.

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