We are in the middle of World Breastfeeding Week, if you didn't already know.
According to the WHO, August 1-7 is celebrated each year "in more than 120 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world."
Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.
As a nursing mother, I have seen the benefits of breastfeeding to myself and my daughter continue into toddlerhood. At seventeen months old, Sweet Pea typically only nurses a few times a day, especially when we are busy and out and about. Those few minutes of nursing are a nice time to come back together, cuddle, and relax. The last couple of days, however, she and I have both been under the weather and nursing much more often. During these rough nights I have been so glad to be able to comfort and nourish her with breastmilk. It is the quickest, easiest, and generally most beneficial way to soothe her when she isn't feeling well. Also, this is the first time she has been sick besides getting a cold in the winter, which I feel I can partially attribute to breastfeeding.
For your enoyment and edification, here is a video from UNICEF, which sheds some light on the importance of breastfeeding around the world.
On the YouTube page for this video, you can read a variety of opinions about the length of time a mother should continue breastfeeding. I wanted to go beyond a year, and have accomplished that, but beyond this point I have no specific plans. I figure I'll know when it's time to stop. My opinion is that it is a very personal choice based on the needs and wishes of each mother-baby pair, and the circumstances they are in. Whether a mom chooses not to breastfeed or can't, or chooses to breastfeed into childhood, every mother deserves respect for her choices. The important thing to me is that all who wish to breastfeed have the necessary information and support.
Happy Breastfeeding Week!