How old is too old to breastfeed?

The affirmative (from left) postnatal and infant feeding clinical midwifery consultant Michelle Simmons, midwife Karen Wilson and breastfeeding mum Kelly Donnolley, against midwifery operations manager Julie Swain and midwifery unit manager Annie Fleming.

It was the World Health Organisation against Maria from Yummy Mummies as teams tackled the big question: how long is too long to breastfeed?

Women’s and Newborn Health hosted a fun, light-hearted debate at Westmead Hospital today.

The affirmative side focused on the health and wellbeing benefits for mum and bub, while the negative team attempted to generate sympathy for the baby formula industry and avoid breastfeeding altogether.

The most applause was reserved for consumer representative Kelly Donnolley, who shared her own experience of breastfeeding each of her three children beyond two years.

Dr Lucy Bates balances work at Westmead Hospital and breastfeeding her son Charli.

“In the busyness of life, breastfeeding is a beautiful time with your child that forces you to slow down and appreciate the connection and stillness,” Kelly said.

“There’s a world out there constantly telling mums everything they are doing wrong, but this is a moment with your child when they show you in their own way what a good job you’re doing.”

In the end the affirmative team claimed a narrow 14-12 victory, which was fitting as the debate was all part of World Breastfeeding Week.

The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of two years, but only 5% of Australian mothers do so.

Midwifery unit manager Annie Fleming explained the event was designed to make people think about the barriers stopping Australian mothers from breastfeeding.

“The health benefits include nutrition and an immune system boost for the child, reduced risk of several cancers for the mother, as well as the social benefits of a strong mother-child bond,” Annie said.

For more information and support, check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association or call the National Breastfeeding Hotline anytime or day on 1800 686 268.