HOW OLD IS TOO OLD?A LOOK AT MOTHERS WHO BREAST FEED BEYOND 4 YEARS

THE age to stop breastfeeding your child is a contentious topic among most parents.

But just what age is best?

Yesterday, socialite Tamara Ecclestone shared a beautiful picture of her breastfeeding her two-year-old daughter Sophia.

She thanked the photographer who took the snap for “spreading the message” about breastfeeding.

She captioned the photo: “Thank you @ivetteivens for capturing this beautiful moment this is by far my favourite photograph but mainly thank you for spreading this message.

“Breastfeeding is a powerful demonstration of love and nurturing yet it has become so normal to hide. I want to take that normal and toss it.”

The 32-year-old daughter of F1 billionaire Bernie Ecclestone has previously spoken of how she will breastfeed until her daughter, known as Fifi to family and friends, is four

The NHS recommends new mums breastfeed their newborns for the first six months, exclusively.

But, their guidelines state breast milk should form a part of a baby’s life “for the first two years, or for as long as you and your baby want”.

The Baby Centre offers similar advice, saying: “How long you keep breastfeeding for is your decision. It will depend on how you feel emotionally, as well as your personal circumstances.”

When a baby is ready to eat solid foods, at around six months, mums can continue to breastfeed alongside food for as long as they want.

In October Tamara, who is married to Jay Rutland, told Fabulous magazine that she would continue to breastfeed Sophia, alongside solid foods, until she no longer wanted the breast.

“It’s whenever she is done, but this beast is never going to be done,” she joked.

“The paediatricians say it’s uncommon to go past four years old.

“Yes, Sophia is two-and-a-half-and yes, a lot of people wouldn’t breastfeed now.

“But it’s so comforting for her and she loves it.

Breastfeeding has far-reaching health benefits for babies, and also for mums.

Breast milk contains unique protection against infections, disease and studies suggest it can help prevent childhood obesity.

Katherine Fisher, a lactation consultant and tongue tie specialist based in south London, says Tamara’s decision to breastfeed Sophia beyond her second birthday is not unusual.

She told The Sun Online: “The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding babies beyond their second birthday, so she is not really doing anything unusuaL

It is just very individual depending on what the woman and the baby want to do.

“But if she says she is going to stop at four, her daughter might have a different view – she might not want to stop.”

She said extended breastfeeding is quite common, but as it is not often seen in our society it tends to cause controversy.

She added: “It seems odd in our culture but in all other parts of the world it is entirely normal for babies to still be breastfed at three.

“Breastfeeding isn’t very visible in our culture and we also have easy access to formula milk and good nutrition, we have other foods we can give babies.

“Whereas in other parts of the world formula is expensive and they cannot guarantee the safety of it because they may not have access to clean water.”

Bridget Halnan, infant feeding lead in Cambridgeshire and fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: “Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect.

“The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.”

In babies, breast milk reduces the risk of a host of illnesses, including diarrhoea and vomiting bugs, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukaemia, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease in adulthood, the NHS states.

And, breastfeeding also has benefits for new mums

Bridget Halnan, infant feeding lead in Cambridgeshire and fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting, said: “Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect.

“The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.”

In babies, breast milk reduces the risk of a host of illnesses, including diarrhoea and vomiting bugs, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukaemia, type 2 diabetes, obesity and heart disease in adulthood, the NHS states.

And, breastfeeding also has benefits for new mums.These formulas have been scientifically designed to ensure babies get the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need.

In 2010, researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology revealed that breastfeeding does not necessarily make for a healthy baby after reviewing more than 50 studies into the relationship between health and breastfeeding.

Professor Sven Carlsen, who led the research, said the babies overall health is determined in the womb before they are even born.

He said: “If you are pregnant, you should live as healthy a lifestyle as possible: quit smoking, cut back on your consumption of coffee and tea, and avoid alcohol.

“And when you give birth, you will do the best that you can, if you want to breastfeeD

But he dispelled the common idea that baby formula is not as good as breast milk.

He added: “But even if this is statistically true, it is not because of breastfeeding itself. There are very few studies that have examined the underlying controls on breastfeeding ability.

“There are many good reasons to breastfeed. But concern for the child’s health is not one of them.

“There is no reason why women who are struggling to breastfeed should have to go around feeling guilty, or think that they are giving their child a poor start in life if they can’t nurse.

“Baby formula is as good as breast milk”
Other research has found that breast milk is no better than baby formula

But Ms Fisher said formula is not better than breast milk and even women who chose not to breastfeed should ensure their baby receives breast milk.

She said it is very rare that women are unable to produce milk all together.

She said: “Breastfeeding confers continued immunological benefits, even though the child might be eating other foods it is still important from the immunological point of view.

“As the mother is exposed to infection she is immediately making the antibody for that so if the child is going to get something they get over it much quicker.

“They [babies who are formula fed] won’t have the same immunological benefits and also the nutritional benefits are a little bit different.

“You can replicate the fat and protein and mineral content of breast milk but you can’t replicate the antibacterial or antiviral properties.”

But if you are worried about your child not receiving the nutrients they need, make an appointment with a paediatrician.

“She doesn’t have a dummy, a blanket or take a bottle.”

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