The most enjoyable part of motherhood is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is so important that the baby should be breastfed for at least a few days. The more prolonged breastfeeding extended, the more benefits it has for both mom and baby. American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for 12 months and making it a cultural norm. Here we present the facts about breast milk and extended breastfeeding benefits. In fact, we answer the question: how long should you breastfeed your baby?
Breastfeeding for a Few Days after Birth
If you breastfeed your baby for a few days, you have provided him with a healthy amount of colostrum, also known as the baby's first vaccine. Colostrum is a sticky yellow liquid produced by the mother's breast right after the baby is born. The body starts producing colostrum a few months before giving birth and while preparing your body for breastfeeding.
Colostrum acts as a laxative and helps clear meconium (the dark green and black stool produced by the baby's intestines before birth) and reduces the chance of jaundice in the newborn. After about ten to fifteen days, the colostrum ends. However, the milk produced by the mother still contains antibodies.
The protein in the mother's milk is easier to digest than the protein in cow's milk or milk powder. Therefore, during breastfeeding, the child has fewer digestive problems such as flatulence or colitis. Breastfeeding in these early days is as good for you as it is for the baby. The advantages of breastfeeding in the early days of birth are the best reason to breastfeed your child as soon as possible, even if you think you will only be able to do it for a short time.
Breastfeeding for Four to Six Weeks
If you breastfeed your infant for 4 to 6 months, you will help him get through the most vulnerable part of his infancy. Breastfed children are usually less likely to suffer from many illnesses, including digestive and respiratory problems, pneumonia and meningitis, and sudden infant death syndrome.
Breastfeeding in the early weeks will help you recover faster from the delivery. Breastfeeding forces you not to stand and spend most of the time sitting with your child. When you give him a bottle, he can be fed by others, and you will have the time to clean the house or go shopping. But breastfeeding is a natural solution so you can get enough rest to recover fully.
Prolactin and oxytocin hormones released during breastfeeding are called mothering hormones and help you relax. When researchers gave these hormones to laboratory mice, they began to build nests and perform maternal activities. These hormones are potent, and mothers report feeling relaxed even in the most stressful moments when breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding for 3 to 6 Months
In Breastfeeding your baby for 3 to 6 months, your baby will have better overall physical and mental health than a formula-fed baby. Research has shown that children who are exclusively breastfed for at least four months are half as likely to get ear infections as children who are formula fed.
Breastfeeding helps you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. Women who breastfeed until their baby reaches 3 to 6 months of age lose more weight than women who give their baby formula and consume fewer calories. After a few months of breastfeeding, you have already overcome all the initial obstacles, such as swelling and infection of the nipples. At this stage, breastfeeding is much easier than formula feeding with a bottle.
Breastfeeding for 6 Months
Extended breastfeeding helps your child from having the slightest problem with allergies. This is because, during this time, your child's digestive system starts producing antibodies that cover his intestines and protect him from allergies. Breast milk contains nearly all the nutrients the baby needs for at least six months. If you have a family history of allergies, it is better to wait six months before starting solid foods. This is because, after this time, the likelihood of allergies will decrease.
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed for six months do not have periods during this time and rarely ovulate. If you breastfeed without supplements or solid foods, you are 98-99% safe from pregnancy. This is only possible when you are fully breastfed. Since most mothers have not practiced this type of exclusive breastfeeding, they use different methods of preventing pregnancy during this period.
Breastfeeding for nine months
In nursing a baby for nine months, you have helped your child pass one of the most critical stages of his development. Babies go through many changes between 6 and 9 months—standing up, teething, crawling, starting to eat solid foods, and so much more. Even though a baby is eating solid foods at this age, breast milk is still an essential part of his diet. It plays a protective role during this period when he is crawling around and putting everything in his mouth.
Breastfeeding for One Year or More
In case you breastfeed your infant for one year, your child will receive benefits that will last a lifetime. Long-term breastfeeding protects against ulcerative colitis, diabetes, asthma, Crohn's disease, obesity, and high cholesterol in adulthood. Children who have been breastfed for a year or more are less likely to need speech therapy or have dental problems later.
During the toddler stage, your baby often falls and bruises to adjust to the new world. Breastfeeding toddlers is one of the best ways to relax a child with an injured knee or who wants to sleep after a busy day. According to medically reviewed research, toddlers who breastfeed for an extended time develop a stronger immune system. So, as many health organizations also recommend, nursing toddlers can be beneficial for them.
Long-term breastfed children are more secure and independent than formula-fed children because they have received their needs during their vulnerable early development period. Don't worry about breastfeeding forever – most babies will eventually wean, no matter what you do. So, you don’t need to worry and always ask yourself how long you can breastfeed.
Whether you breastfeed your baby for a few days, a few months, or a year, you will still receive the benefits. Some women wonder how long to breastfeed for various reasons. Some think that they cannot continue breastfeeding for long. Some feel that it is annoying and binds their hands and feet. Some others believe they cannot breastfeed as much as they should because they cannot have enough milk production. But it's always worth giving breastfeeding a try. Even if it doesn't work, you can stop breastfeeding anytime. Many mothers plan to breastfeed their children for a short period but eventually realize that it takes much longer than they thought. So, how long do you breastfeed? It depends on you as a mother who is aware of the health benefits of extended breastfeeding.