How Long should you Breastfeed your Baby?


How Long should you Breastfeed your Baby?

What are the guidelines for breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding has various advantages for both newborns and moms, but how long do you have to breastfeed to reap these benefits? Is there a point at which nursing becomes dangerous?

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) both recommend that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months of their lives. For the first half-year of a baby's existence, no additional food or drink but breast milk is allowed. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year, with supplementary foods introduced starting at six months.

Some ladies may not be able to breastfeed for a year. Continue reading to find out how breastfeeding for shorter periods of time, or combining breastfeeding with formula, can still be beneficial to the infant.

What are some of the advantages of breastfeeding?

Even if you only breastfeed for a few days, there are various advantages to doing so. Here are some of the highlights based on your child's age.

First days

Experts advise keeping babies close to their mothers and starting breastfeeding as soon as an hour after birth. Close skin-to-skin contact for the newborn and milk stimulation for the mother are two of the advantages at this time.

Colostrum is a thick, yellow material given to the baby at first. The earliest stage of breast milk, colostrum, includes vital nutrients and antibodies for the infant. Breast milk fully comes in over the next few days, providing early nutrition and possibly even helping to protect the infant from infection.

First month

Breast milk is referred to as a baby's first immunisation by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Breast milk contains antibodies that safeguard a kid for at least the first year of his or her life. These antibodies keep you safe from:

·       Infectious diarrhoea

·       Infections in the ears

·       Infections in the chest

·       Additional health problems, such as intestinal troubles

Feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and prolactin are beneficial to mothers. These hormones may work together to induce sensations of happiness or fulfilment.

Breastfeeding helps the uterus shrink back to its usual size faster, thus women who breastfeed may recover from childbirth faster.

3 to 4 months

Breast milk continues to help the digestive system as newborns approach the third month of life. It also helps prevent certain newborns from allergies found in various foods and supplements.

Breastfeeding can help the mother burn an extra 400 to 500 calories per day, helping her maintain a healthy postpartum weight.

Breastfeeding may also benefit the mom's internal health. Nursing has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease in some studies. To completely comprehend the connection, more research is required.

6 months

Even after the inclusion of table foods, which doctors recommend at 6 months of age, the benefits of nursing persist. Breast milk can continue to give calories, protein, vitamin A, iron, and other essential elements. Not only that, but breast milk protects a baby from disease and illness for as long as they drink it.

Reaching this milestone could lower the mom's chance of breast cancer and other malignancies such as ovarian, endometrial, and uterine cancers. According to a report released in 2017 by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, a woman's risk of breast cancer can be reduced by 2% for every five months of nursing.

If the mother's menstrual cycle has not yet returned and she continues nighttime feedings, exclusive breastfeeding may give up to 98 per cent effective contraception in the first six months. Of course, if having another child isn't in the cards, it's a good idea to utilise a backup strategy, such as condoms.

9 months

Breastfeeding on demand and providing other foods 3 to 5 times a day are recommended feeding strategies for babies aged 6 to 12 months. Breast milk should still be given before meals during this period, with table foods serving as a supplement.

Other than a probably sustained reduction in the risk of breast cancer, publications do not mention a continued reduction in the risk of other illnesses in mothers who breastfeed for more than six months.

1 year

Another advantage of long-term nursing is financial savings. You'll likely save a lot of money on formula, which may cost anywhere from just over $800 to upwards of $3,000 in the first year.

Breastfed babies may have a better immune system and be less likely to require speech therapy or orthodontic treatment if they are breastfed for a year. Why? All that sucking at the breast, according to the hypothesis, aids in the development of muscles in and around the mouth.

Beyond a year

Breastfeeding on demand and providing other foods five times a day are two feeding guidelines for a year and beyond. If you want to quit giving breast milk or need a breast milk substitute, you can introduce cow's milk at this time.

Longer nursing may provide children with an advantage in terms of IQ and social development, according to some earlier research. A recent study, however, suggests that the IQ advantages may only be transient.

Exclusive vs. combination feeding

There are a variety of reasons why women choose to supplement their feeding with breast milk bottles or commercial formulas. Breastfeeding does not have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Breast milk might be beneficial to your kid even if you aren't breastfeeding.

Combination feeding is when you mix certain feeds with breast milk and others with formula. Combination feeding has a number of advantages, including:

·       skin-to-skin contact with mother for bonding

·       the benefits of sucking at the breast for oral development

·       exposure to antibodies that aid in allergy and disease prevention

·       Mom's health benefits will continue

Combo feeding is especially beneficial for working women who don't want to pump at work or are unable to pump for other reasons. Keep in mind that while a baby is with their mother, they may "reverse the cycle" and feed more frequently.

Is there a risk of breastfeeding for a long time?

The typical age of weaning varies between 2 and 4 years old in different parts of the world. In certain societies, children are breastfed until they are 6 or 7 years old.

There are no known dangers associated with breastfeeding beyond the first one or two years. There is also no compelling data that suggests that a longer feeding relationship makes weaning more difficult.

Deciding to wean

Breastfeeding with complementary foods should be continued until the child's second birthday or beyond, according to the WHO. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nursing with meals should be continued until the child's first birthday, or as long as mother and baby agree.

The following are some signals that your infant is ready to wean:

·       being over the age of one year old

·       gaining more nourishment from solid foods

·       drinking well from a cup

·       gradually reducing unprompted nursing sessions

·       refusing nursing sessions

However, the decision to wean is a personal one. Don't panic if you're ready to wean before your child hits these milestones. Whatever method you use to feed your kid, you're doing a fantastic job.

How to wean?

Weaning begins with the introduction of table meals to the baby, so you may already be on your way. Once meals have been established, the next step in the process is to actively stop breastfeeding.

Some tips:

·       Instead of going cold turkey, taper off to assist your supply decrease without causing engorgement. For example, drop one or two feeds every one or two weeks.

·       Begin by eliminating noon meals. Because of engorgement, the first and last feedings of the day are often more difficult to cease.

·       Vary your feeding schedule around your regular mealtime hours. Avoid sitting in familiar nursing positions, for example.

·       Use a cup or a bottle to serve expressed breast milk. Breast milk benefits will still be provided to your child, albeit from a different source.

·       Apply cold compresses or cabbage leaves to your breasts to relieve soreness.

Breastfeed your infant if you detect resistance or if he or she expresses a desire to nurse. You can always try again tomorrow if the process isn't linear. In the meanwhile, use meals, toys, plush animals, and other things to occupy yourself. During the adjustment, make sure to give your child plenty of cuddles and personal contact.


It is ultimately up to you and your baby to decide how long you will nurse. There are benefits for both mother and child if you breastfeed for only a few days, as well as benefits that last for years. Combination feedings or supplementing breast milk with other food sources, such as formula or solids, can also help you and your baby.

Trust yourself and try not to be concerned about what others may think of your own choices. If you have any problems or need assistance with feeding, go to your doctor or a lactation professional in your region.

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