Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond" ("Breastfeeding", 2018).
The natural age of weaning in humans is believed to be between 4.5 and 7 years old. Studies have shown that a child’s immune system doesn’t completely mature until about 6 years of age. It is well established that breast milk helps develop the immune system and augment it with maternal antibodies as long as breast milk is produced.
Human breastmilk is species specific, providing energy and nutrients (as well as many other beneficial substances).
Bioavailability and concentrations of many nutrients in breastmilk is higher than infant formulas.
Breastmilk is 80% water, even on a hot day a breastfed baby does not need water or any other liquids.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
● Breastmilk protects from infections. Breastfed children have a lower incidence and severity of infectious diseases (Hechtman, 2014).
● Some studies have suggested that breastfed children may have increased protection against certain diseases including obesity, childhood leukaemia, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, coeliac disease and inflammatory bowel diseases compared with those who were not breastfed (Hechtman, 2014).
● Prolonged exclusive breastfeeding has been associated with enhanced cognitive development (Hechtman, 2014).
● A research study released in May, 2017 found that the bacteria found in mother’s milk and areolar skin seed the infant gut and profoundly influence the development of infant microbiome (Pannaraj et al., 2017).
●Breastmilk is a living tissue and changes as the needs of your child change. Riordan & Wamback (2012) state, “Human milk is similar to unstructured living tissue, such as blood, and is capable or transporting nutrients, affecting biochemical systems, enhancing immunity, and destroying pathogens ” “Breastmilk, like all other animal milks, is species-specific. It has been adapted throughout human existence to meet nutritional and anti-infective requirements of the human infant to ensure optimal growth, development, and survival” (Riordan & Wamback, 2012).
● Breastmilk continues to give your toddler MANY vitamins, minerals, enzymes, electrolytes, antibacterial properties, antimicrobial properties, antifungal properties etc. There are many benefits for continuing to breastfeed for as long as possible.
●New studies show the gut-brain development continue to develop into the third year of life and breastfeeding during this period is crucial for brain and gut development (Clarke et al., 2014).
If you experience difficulties breastfeeding please seek advice from The Australian Breastfeeding Association and/or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
I can also offer one on one support for breastfeeding mothers to assist with milk supply, increasing energy levels and healthy nutrient levels in breastmilk.
Breastfeeding. (2018). World Health Organization. Retrieved 23 April 2018, from http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/
Clarke, G., O'Mahony, S., Dinan, T., & Cryan, J. (2014). Priming for health: gut microbiota acquired in early life regulates physiology, brain and behaviour. Acta Paediatrica, 103(8), 812-819. doi: 10.1111/apa.12674
Hechtman, L. (2014). Clinical naturopathic medicine (1st ed.). Chatswood: Elsevier.
Pannaraj, P., Li, F., Cerini, C., Bender, J., Yang, S., & Rollie, A. et al. (2017). Association Between Breast Milk Bacterial Communities and Establishment and Development of the Infant Gut Microbiome. JAMA Pediatrics, 171(7), 647. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.0378
Riordan, J & Wamback 2012, Breastfeeding and human lactation, 4th ed, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, Massachusetts.