How Long Should You Breastfeed?

Breastfeeding can be a positive experience for both mom and baby. You’ll feel a special closeness and bond with your baby. You’ll give your baby ideal nutrition. You and your baby will both reap health benefits. Plus, breastfeeding doesn’t cost any money.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding up to 2 years or more. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that moms feed their babies only breastmilk for the first six months. Then they say to keep breastfeeding for at least one year. After that, it depends on how long the mom and child want to keep it up.

Keep in mind that breastfeeding even for a few weeks has benefits. Your friends and family may have strong beliefs about how long to breastfeed. But in the end, it’s up to you. Only you and your child know what’s best.

Making the decision 

After nine to 12 months, your child may decide on his or her own that he or she no longer wants to nurse. Some other reasons that you might stop breastfeeding include the following:

  • A business trip or other long absence from home

  • A return to work. Remember, though, you can keep breastfeeding after you go back to work. Talk to your employer about a more flexible schedule. Or ask your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant about how to pump and store your milk.

It’s important to think about your feelings. Some moms want the independence they had before they started breastfeeding. Other moms feel guilty, sad, or lonely when their children no longer want to nurse. They miss the bonding they had with their children while breastfeeding.

To sort through your emotions, talk with a friend who has weaned a child. Or, write your thoughts in a journal. You can share it with your child when he or she is older.

Remember that your child will still need you even after he or she is done breastfeeding. Weaning is the start of a new stage in your special relationship.

Changes your body may face

When you stop breastfeeding, your body may change. You may have changes in the following:

  • Breast size and shape. Your breasts will likely get smaller again. However, this may take several months. They may end up a slightly different size or density than they were before you got pregnant. If they feel engorged, or too full, try using your hand or a pump to release a little bit of milk.

  • Fertility. If you’re feeding your baby only breastmilk, your chances of getting pregnant are very low. Breastfeeding can delay the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. But it’s not a guaranteed way to prevent pregnancy. Your chance of getting pregnant goes up when you drop nursing sessions or stop breastfeeding.

Online Medical Reviewer: Bowers, Nancy, RN, BSN, MPHFoley, Maryann, RN, BSN

Date Last Reviewed: 4/12/2016

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