(NaturalNews) "Breastfeeding should continue for up to two years of age or beyond," the World Health Organization recommends -- yet in many countries such as the United Kingdom or United States, breastfeeding a child past the age of a few months is still considered odd or deviant, even by some doctors.
"One health professional just this week said to me that there is no nutritional value to feeding a child once they are eating solids from around six months," said breastfeeding advocate Rachel Maudsley.
The benefits of breastfeeding for both infant health and the mother-infant relationship are well-established, and the majority of human cultures throughout history have breast-fed past the age of one. Yet many government health regulations focus on encouraging breastfeeding only for the first six months, out of fear that expecting more from women might scare them out of breastfeeding entirely.
Already, only 25 percent of British mothers are breastfeeding six months after giving birth, down from 76 percent immediately after birth.
"There is a lot of guilt surrounding breastfeeding," said Maggie Fisher, chair of the Health Visitors' Forum. "We want to support people to make healthy choices, but they've also got to do what's comfortable and feels right for them."
"In practice, as a health visitor, my biggest problem is getting parents to start breastfeeding, and if you can get them going beyond six months you really think you're winning."
But breastfeeding advocates like Maudsley and Ann Sinnott, author of "Breastfeeding Older Children," argue that with increased education and support, many more women would indeed breastfeed for longer.
"I went to a breastfeeding group when [my daughter] was two," Maudsley said, "and some of the mums of the newborns were shocked. They said: 'Oh my goodness, you're still feeding her?' They didn't know you could feed a child of that age."