Breastfeeding Guide

How Long Should I Breastfeed

Deciding when to wean? Read this.
How Long Should I Breastfeed

The Singapore Ministry of Health adopts the same recommendation as the World Health Organisation, that is babies should be exclusively breastfed (i.e.,without formula, water, juice, non–breast milk, or food) for the first six months. After six months, mothers may introduce solid foods and water while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years and beyond

There’s no right answer for how long you should breastfeed — but more time does bring more benefits. Whether you breastfeed for a few weeks, three months, six months, one year or more, there are benefits both to you and your baby.  

Benefits of Breastfeeding - A Timeline

A few days/weeks

For baby: Colostrum — that thick liquid gold you produce for three to four days after your baby is born — provides antibodies that help to stop harmful germs that can make your baby sick. Colostrum does this by coating your baby's digestive system so that germs have no place to grow. 

Colostrum also supplies the perfect nutrition at a slow rate while they learn to nurse. In these early days, colostrum stabilizes your baby’s blood sugars, kick-starts the digestive system, and contributes to their mental development.

For mom:  Breastfeeding produces the hormone oxycotin which helps your uterus contract after delivery and return to its normal size. It also reduces the amount of vaginal bleeding after delivery. 

Six weeks 

For baby: After the first few weeks, you’ll have an established milk supply. As your baby grows, your breast milk adapts to their needs, providing nutrients that are perfect for their developmental state. At this stage, breast milk helps prevent digestive issues and chest infections while providing the nutrition they need to reach those early growth markers.  

For mom:  Your uterus takes around 6 weeks to fully contract back to its normal its pre-pregnancy size so breastfeeding during this period continues to help this contraction process. 

Three months

For babyResearch has found that breastfeeding for any duration of time lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by 60% by 60 percent while breastfeeding for a longer period only increases the positive effect. After two months of breastfeeding, your baby may also have a reduced risk for food allergies.  

For mom: Breastfeeding burns about 500 extra calories a day, and may give your metabolism a boost. Some even equate breastfeeding to "free liposuction". That said, everybody is different and we know some mothers find it difficult to shed pounds during breastfeeding.

Three to four months

For baby: Studies have shown that three to four months of breastfeeding protects your little one against asthma for the first two years of their life while breastfeeding for longer periods of time offers protection that extends past 5 years. Studies have also shown that exclusive breastfeeding for four months lowers your baby’s risk of chest infection and diarrhoea as their digestive and immune systems continue to develop.  

For mom:  A study has shown women who breastfeed their infants reduced their risk of developing postpartum depression, with effects being maintained over the first 4 months postpartum.

Six months

For babyBreastfeeding exclusively for six months lowers your baby’s risk for ear, nose, throat and sinus infections past infancy and may protect against autoimmune disease and respiratory allergies as well. 

Studies have linked breastfeeding with improved cognitive development that extends into childhood. Breastfed babies often develop motor skills at an earlier age and may be less likely to have emotional and behavioral problems.

For mom: The advantages of breastfeeding for six months include a lower risk of type 2 diabetes — even decades later. This benefit extends to birthing parents who experienced gestational diabetes with pregnancy too. 

One year or more

For baby: Breastfeeding for one year means you’ve given your baby health benefits that will last a lifetime, including being less likely to become overweight later in life and having a lower risk of heart disease as an adult. Breastfed babies are also less likely to need orthodontia and speech therapy because the sucking and pausing patterns particular to breastfeeding lead to greater oral development. It also influences the airway and shape of the roof of the mouth. 

For mom: One year of breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast cancer. The benefits double for those who spent two years breastfeeding. 

Breastfeeding also reduces the mother's risk of ovarian cancer. One study examining Chinese women in particular found that women who breastfed for more than 13 months were 63 percent less likely to develop an ovarian tumor than women who breastfed for less than seven months. Essentially, the longer women breastfed, the greater the reduced risk. Women who had three children and who breastfed for over 31 months were up to 91 percent less likely to suffer from ovarian cancer than women who breastfed for under 10 months.

Breastfeeding also lowers a mom’s risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and heart disease, which reduces the risk for stroke and heart attack.  

Making The Decision to Wean

I weaned my firstborn when he was almost two years old. I'll be honest - he wasn't ready to wean. He has always been attached to my boobs. It was his safe place. But at that point, I was pregnant with my second and heading into my third trimester.  I was tired and my milk supply dropped significantly during my second trimester. I just knew in my heart that it was time to stop.

We were able to wean at a time when I was ready to stop breastfeeding, but I know not everyone's as fortunate. The structures of our societies make it hard for mothers to breastfeed for as long as some might wish. Most mothers have to work outside of their homes or don’t have support from people around them, or are persuaded into weaning early due to negative comments about nursing their toddler. 

Whatever your decision - just know that it's YOUR decision to make. You don’t have to nurse your baby to raise a happy, healthy human, or build a successful bond with them. But if you want to, you deserve to have help, care, and support.

And for those considering weaning your child, know that your child will still need you even after they are done breastfeeding. Weaning is just the start of the next phase in your relationship.