When to Stop Breastfeeding

  • Share
  • Read Later

There are many good reasons for new mothers to breastfeed their infants —studies have shown that babies digest mother’s milk better than formula, and that breast milk can build up babies’ immune systems and protect them from infection, leading to better health overall.  Breast milk is full of antibodies and other agents that newborn bodies need in order to build up proper defenses against pathogens. Then there are the emotional benefits; the physical bonding that occurs during feeding can help babies feel comforted and secure.
But how long is long enough to reap these benefits? A new study from the Netherlands shows that while four months of exclusive breast feeding reduces the risk of respiratory infections by an average of 45%, six months lowers infections by an average of 65%, compared to rates among formula-fed babies. Combining mother’s milk with formula after four months also raises the risk of infection, as does breastfeeding for only three months, which led to a higher risk of hospitalization for infections.  
The results support the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO), which in 2001 advised that all children be only breastfed until six months of age. For some busy moms, that may be too long, and the study suggests that cutting that period down may not be that harmful to their babies’ health.