The decision about how long to breastfeed is very personal and can depend on a number of factors. We provide information and support to help you make the decision that is right for you and your baby.
Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF recommend that a baby is exclusively breastfed for the first six months (around 26 weeks), and for breastfeeding to continue beyond that time along with solid food for two years or more. The reality is that although most babies are breastfed at the beginning, very few babies in the UK continue to be breastfed beyond the first few months as we have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates for any developed country.
This means that our society is not used to seeing breastfeeding and so schools, colleges, employers, families and communities lack awareness of breastfeeding. This can make the decision to breastfeed and to keep breastfeeding a more difficult one for a mother, particularly during times of change like returning to study or going back to work.
Support and understanding of breastfeeding is growing. We know that every drop of breastmilk that a baby receives is valuable and the longer breastfeeding continues the greater the benefits to both your baby and you.
Each month of breastfeeding lowers the risk of illnesses that can put babies into hospital. It also helps protect babies against becoming overweight or obese, which means they are less likely to develop diseases like diabetes in the future. Every breastfeed is beneficial for your baby and breastfeeding for even a short time, or in combination with feeding infant formula, will still benefit your baby.
There is no need to decide how long you will breastfeed for at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. You can take it day-by-day, week-by-week, month-by-month and even year-by-year. You can continue for as long as it feels right for you and your child. The natural duration of breastfeeding is thought to be anywhere between two and seven years.
We are here to help you make breastfeeding work for you.
You may find these NHS links useful:
You can read more about breastfeeding toddlers and older children here: