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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the normal length of time to breastfeed a baby?

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    Joy Anderson

    Dietitian, Nutritionist

    Joy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Nutritionist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She has a special interest in … View Profile

    The answer to this depends on what you define as ‘normal’. Anthropologists say that humans are designed to breastfeed for somewhere between 2.5 and 7 years. However, in Western society, babies are weaned earlier than this in most cases. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (no other foods or drinks, except essential medications) for 6 months and then continuation of breastfeeding with the addition of solids for 2 years and beyond, as long as mother and child desire. Australian health authorities have similar recommendations but usually say ‘until at least 12 months’. After 12 months, babies no longer require a modified type of milk, ie a formula, as it is expected that they are eating a wide range of family foods. Breastmilk remains a valuable and significant source of both nutrition and immune protection for as long as the child breastfeeds.

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