How long should a woman breast-feed for?
There can never be any hard and fast rules about this. The current recommendation for weaning a baby and to start introducing solids is six months. This means, a mother should strive to breast-feed exclusively for at least six months. Even if the baby was on formula, this should ideally continue exclusively for this duration.
At six months, solids can be gradually introduced.
Why can’t I wean my baby earlier?
The most important reason is that there is no need to do this as mother’s milk (or the infant milk formula) is nutritionally quite adequate for the baby.
Secondly, there is evidence that early introduction of solids could increase the risk of allergies for the baby.
The gut is also not quite ready to process solids efficiently before this point.
What is the issue with gluten?
You will find the advice given on weaning foods mentioning that you should ensure the food you give is gluten-free. This should be the case for the first few weeks after xix months as you gradually introduce and gluten-free is a must if, for whatever reason, you are forced to introduce solids before six months. Gluten is a protein mainly found in wheat, barley, oats and rye. It is important, therefore, if you are preparing the baby’s food yourself, that you avoid these cereals. The issue with gluten is the risk of allergy.
Which other foods should be avoided for the baby?
Apart from foods containing gluten, it is important that the baby’s food does not contain:
When is the ideal point when the mother should stop breast-feeding completely?
Some women will wean the baby off the breast completely by six months, others at twelve months. Most will have stopped by eighteen to twenty-four months. Every individual should decide on the best arrangement in her case.
A baby is quite ready to be fed on full-cream cow's milk by the age of 12 months. It is unwise to introduce formula milk at this stage. Skimmed milk should not be used.
There is much more detailed information on the subject of weaning the baby here:
Last update: March 28. 2013