The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommendations are: to breastfeed your baby exclusively from birth to 6 months. After the introduction of complementary foods and water at 6 months, breastfeeding should continue up to 2 years and beyond. This means that you should breastfeed your baby for as long as you and your baby wish to breastfeed.
Before your baby is established on solids, it can be very difficult to imagine breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond. However, that intense first 6 months doesn’t last. So try not to make a weaning plan based on your experience of the first 6 months. Breastfeeding changes as your baby grows into a toddler. While you will have to deal with some new issues such as acrobatic nursing, toddlers generally feed more quickly and less frequently, unless they are going through mental leaps and growth spurts. For more info see https://www.thewonderweeks.com/.
Breastmilk contains everything your baby needs (in conjunction with solid food after 6 months) to grow and thrive. When your baby enters toddlerhood, and is moving around a lot more exploring their surroundings (often with their mouths) your breastmilk will make more antibodies to protect them. And these antibodies will be tailor-made for your baby. Breastfed children have lower risks of ear, chest and tummy infections (HSE 2019). It also protects them from becoming overweight or obese (obviously, depending on their diet). For more information on the amazing benefits of breastfeeding click here: https://latchingon.ie/prenatal/the-5-best-things-about-breastfeeding/
Of course if you wish to use cow’s milk for your baby of course you can, but why use the milk from a different species when you have your own highly specialised and individualised milk? Breastmilk is so incredible, that scientists still don’t know all the ways in which it affects our babies and us. Much like the brain, there is still so much to learn.
In Ireland, the HSE (Health Service Executive) recommends supplementing our babies with 5 micrograms of Vitamin D3 every day from birth to 12 months. However If you are giving your baby more than 300mls/10oz of formula per day, you do not need to supplement, as Vitamin D3 supplementation for formula was increased under EU law in February 2020. For more information on Vitamin D3, visit https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/vitamin-d-for-babies-0-12-months.html.
Ok, so I kinda went around the houses a bit with this post, rather than focusing just on cow’s milk, but I hope you find it helpful. The whole weaning phase can be quite confusing for parents. What should I be giving? What should I not be giving? Should I be moving on to follow-on formula? (No by the way. These are completely unneccesary for a baby on a healthy balanced diet). Finding a group of like-minded mama’s is a great way of ensuring that you always get the information you need, as you need it. Hopefully you might find a few bits here too!!
Health Service Executive (2020). Vitamin D for babies 0-12 months. https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/vitamin-d-for-babies-0-12-months.html. [Accessed on 22nd Jan 2021).
Health Service Executive (2019). Extended Breastfeeding. https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/child-health/extended-breastfeeding-beyond-1-year.html [Accessed on 22nd Jan 2021).
World Health Organization (2021). Breastfeeding: Recommendations. https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_2 [Accessed on 22nd Jan 2021].