Contributed by: Nancy Dixit
Confused about how long should you breastfeed?
This question has interested me and prompted me to look for research that has been done. In this article, we’ll be sharing about how long and how often you should breastfeed.
Breastfeeding can be a positive experience for both mom and baby. You and your baby will both reap health benefits. Plus, breastfeeding doesn’t cost any money.
However, a woman’s ability to breastfeed can rely upon many factors. For the most part, breastmilk production depends on the loss of milk to provide more (supply and demand).
Additionally, it’ll rely upon the mother’s health, sufficient calorie intake and emotional well-being, as well as healthy endocrine levels.
Many paediatrics recommend that mothers feed their babies only breastmilk for the first six months.
Then they recommend keeping breastfeeding for at least one year. After that, it depends on how long the mom and child want to keep it up.
Along with this, keep in mind that breastfeeding even for a few weeks has its own benefits.
How often should I breastfeed?
Generally, newborn babies should be breastfed 10 to12 times per day for about the first month.
Breast milk is easily digested, so newborns are hungry often. Frequent feedings help stimulate your milk production during the first few weeks.
But, by the time your baby gets 2 to 3 months old, he/she probably needs to breastfeed 7 to 9 times a day.
During the initial phase (first few weeks) of life, breastfeeding should be done on demand, (which means when your baby is hungry) which is about every 1.5 to 3 hours.
As the baby gets older they’ll nurse less often, and may have a more predictable schedule.
Tip: “Newborns should not go more than about 4 hours without feeding, even overnight.”
Here’s the way how you can count the time between feedings:
You should count and jot down the length of time between feedings from the time your baby begins to feed (rather than at the end) to when your little one starts feeding again.
For instance, when your doctor asks how often your baby is feeding, you can say “about every 2 hours” if your first feeding started at 6 a.m., the next feeding was around 8 a.m., then 10 a.m., and so on.
How long does nursing take?
Newborns may nurse for up to 20 minutes or longer on one or both breasts. As babies get older and get more skilled at breastfeeding, they may take about 5 to10 minutes on each side.
It depends on several other factors as well, such as:
- Your milk flow is slow or fast
- The baby has a good latch, taking in as much as possible of your areola (the dark circle of skin around your nipple)
- Your baby begins gulping right away or takes it slow
- Your baby is sleepy or distracted
How long should you breastfeed?
How long to continue breastfeeding is a personal decision for each woman to make. Breastfeeding provides a special closeness and bond with your baby.
Note: The World Health Organization (WHO)recommends exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. no other fluids or solids) for six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 2 years or as long as mother and baby desire.
Phases of Breastfeeding duration
- Very initial days
If you breastfeed your baby for just a few days, he/she will have received your colostrum or early milk. Colostrum is the first milk your baby consumes after birth. It’s highly concentrated with nutrients and antibodies to fight infection and protect your baby. It helps the baby with the easiest immunisation and helps get his digestive system working smoothly.
- For 4 to 6 weeks
If you breastfeed your baby for 4 to 6 weeks, you will have eased the baby through the most critical part of his infancy.
Did you know that newborns who are not breastfed are much more likely to get sick or be hospitalised and have an increased risk of infections due to weak immunity?
- For 3 to 4 months
If you breastfeed your baby for 3 to 4 months, the digestive system of the baby will have matured a great deal, and the baby will be much better able to tolerate the formula milk.
- For 6 months
If you breastfeed your baby for 6 months without introducing any other food or drink, it will help ensure good health throughout your baby’s first year of life, and reduce your little one’s risk of infection also. Additionally, it will reduce your own risk of breast cancer.
- For 9 months
If you breastfeed your baby for 9 months, it will help aid his/her’s brain and body development. At this stage, weaning off breastfeeding also might be a little easy, if you want to.
- For 1 year
If you breastfeed your baby for 1 year, you can avoid the expense of baby formula. A baby’s one-year-old body can probably handle most of the home-cooked foods your family enjoys.
The baby will be less likely to need orthodontic treatment and have a reduced risk of some childhood cancers such as leukaemia.
According to the National Health and Medical Research Council, it is recommended to breastfeed for a year, or for as long as the mother and baby desire because it helps ensure normal nutrition and health for your baby.
- For 18 months
If you breastfeed your baby for 18 months, your baby is probably well established on family foods, too.
At this time, the baby is now old enough that you and the baby can work together on the weaning process, at a pace that he/she can handle.
If your child weans when he/she is ready, you can feel confident that you have met your baby’s physical and emotional needs in a very normal, healthy way.
However, over time, all children stop breastfeeding on their own.
In cultures where there is no pressure to wean, children tend to breastfeed for at least 2 years.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF strongly encourage breastfeeding through toddlerhood: ‘Breastmilk is an important source of energy and protein, and helps to protect against disease during the child’s second year of life.’
Whether you breastfeed for a day or several years, the decision to breastfeed your child is one you will never regret. And whenever weaning takes place, remember that it is a big step for both of you.
To sort through your emotions, talk with a friend who has weaned a child.
We would love to conclude this article by giving one more tip to the mothers:
Breastfeeding burns calories gained during pregnancy and helps shrink the uterus., Breastfeeding moms might even return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker.
Moreover, you should also frequently opt for health screening. It provides you with vital insights into your health, allowing you to take necessary measures to improve it.