What breastfeeding and breastmilk provides at the different ages and stages of your baby's life
How long to continue breastfeeding for is a personal decision for your family to make. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. no other fluids or solids) for six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 2 years or as long as mother and baby desire.
Read here about what breastfeeding provides at the different ages and stages of your baby's life. Even if breastfeeding has not worked out as you had planned, you can be reassured that even a few days of breastmilk has been important for your baby.
Breastfeeding your newborn
Ensures your baby drinks colostrum, providing anti-infective factors.
Provides the first and easiest ‘immunisation’ for your baby.
Helps get your baby’s digestive system working.
Is natural, allowing your baby to follow their instincts.
Helps your body recover from birth.
Breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 weeks
Offers protection against common illnesses and infections.
Decreases the risk of SIDS.
Identifies any hurdles or feeding concerns which you can be supported through.
Breastfeeding your baby for 3 or 4 months
Helps your baby’s digestive system mature.
Protects your baby against ear infections, respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections.
Is all your baby needs. You do not need to offer any foods or other liquids.
Breastfeeding your baby for 9 months
Offers nourishment for the fastest and most important brain and body development.
Offers comfort, hydration and nutrition. Feed your baby as they need it.
Continues to provide the most important food as they start trying family foods.
Protects your baby’s immune system as they begin to eat possibly allergenic foods.
Breastfeeding your baby for one year
Saves you the expense of formula.
Prepares your baby for most family foods that you can enjoy together.
Provides benefits that will last their whole life.
Reduces the need for orthodontic treatment.
Reduces the risk of some childhood cancers.
Offers your baby immune factors which protect them if they are starting childcare.
Gives you a sense of achievement – you made it to 12 months!
Breastfeeding your toddler for 18 months
Continues to provide nutrition, comfort and protection from illnesses, especially when, at this age, toddlers may be starting day care so be exposed to sickness.
Compliments eating a varied diet with your family.
Continues to form a solid bond with you, growing their independence.
Allows for a comfortable weaning process, at a pace that you can both adjust to.
Breastfeeding your child for 2 years or more
Meets your child’s physical and emotional needs
Provides a source of comfort for child behaviours such as crying, tantrums and tumbles.
Is normal in many cultures and recommended by WHO and UNICEF.
Is biologically normal and our body seems geared to a weaning age of between 2 and a half and 7 years.
Continues to reduce your risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Is still nutritious, providing a source of energy and protein and protection against illness.
Whether you breastfeed for a day or for several years, the decision to breastfeed your child is one you will never regret. And whenever weaning takes place, remember that it is a big step for both of you.