Breastfeeding rates vary by state, age, race, and a mother’s ability to take parental leave.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
But, there is no strict limit to how long a baby should breastfeed.
Which might have you wondering, what percentage of mothers breastfeed for up to 6 months?
Well, here is a breakdown by state:
If you worry about breastfeeding, you need to think of the different factors likely to affect your ability to nurse, such as:
- Lactation and latching challenges
- Worries about a baby’s weight and nutrition
- A mother taking medication while nursing
- Poor parental leave services and unsupportive work environments
- Cultural and family norms
- Poor support from birthing professionals and hospitals
“With both my babies, my goal was one year. With my first we made it and I was ready to be done and she was easy to wean as she always took a bottle and pacifier with ease. My second had other plans! He nursed like a champ from the get-go and refused all bottles and pacifiers. I wasn't in a hurry to wean him and we went to 19 months. I loved breastfeeding but I got to a point with both where I felt done.” - jlavinak
The Early Stages of Breastfeeding and Its Benefits
Most health experts share the same breastfeeding guidelines.
Some recommendations from leading organizations include:
- The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists: Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Thereafter, parents can introduce solid foods and continue breastfeeding for a year. Both the mother and child can choose to continue breastfeeding until one of them is ready to stop.
- World Health Organization: They share the same recommendation as to the two organizations above. But, they encourage continuous breastfeeding for up to 2 years.
If you’re still deciding whether and how long to breastfeed, these guidelines are a good starting point.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for Your Child
Any amount of breastfeeding will be beneficial to the child.
If you can only manage colostrum, the first breast milk, it will be valuable to your child. The colostrum is nutrient-rich. It also contains antibodies to boost the child’s immune system.
Even if you choose to nurse for a few weeks, your child will benefit.
Some advantages of continuous breastfeeding include:
- Breast milk provides all the nutrition a child needs for the first 6 months. The milk provides a perfect balance of nutrients. It's also easier on the child's digestive system compared to other nutritional supplements.
- Breast milk is rich in antibodies. These antibodies reduce the risk of allergies, infections, asthma, diarrhea, and other illnesses. Children who breastfeed have lower hospitalization rates.
- The intimacy of the experience helps the child feel more secure. This is a good opportunity to spend time with your baby before they’re old enough to walk away.
Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Mother
Yes, you also stand to benefit from the nursing experience.
- Burn calories and return to your pre-pregnancy weight. You can start dreaming about your favorite pants while nourishing your baby.
- Nursing can lower the risk of ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
- It’s an opportunity for you to bond with your baby.
- Breastfeeding increases the production of oxytocin. Oxytocin helps the uterus contract back to its original size. It also reduces the risk of uterine bleeding post-birth.
How Long Do People Breastfeed?
The answer to this question is deeply personal.
You are the only person who has power over this decision. Whatever decision you make, you and your baby will be alright.
In your journey, you will come across a lot of expectations and definitions of ‘normal’.
Most of these are old wives’ tales.
In deciding how long to breastfeed, you should:
- Talk to your health care provider or a breastfeeding professional.
- Assess you and your child’s needs.
- Make sure you are in the right mental space to breastfeed.
Understanding the Psychology of Breastfeeding Older Children
Scientifically, there is no danger to breastfeeding an older child.
Most of the criticism will come from strangers. Your child will most likely experience:
- Social hostility
- Embarrassment if your child requests to breastfeed in public
- Ridicule from other children
As a mother, you might also experience:
- A slump in your sex life
- Exhaustion as you try to keep up with nursing demands
- Less time with other children or with your partner
But, there are several benefits mothers attribute to nursing for an extended period. Mothers who nurse for a long time describe their children as:
- Physically healthier
- More friendly and loving
- More self-reliant
- More emotionally secure
- Easier to comfort
Instead of worrying about public opinion, you should focus on your baby’s health.
You cannot change public opinion.
Making Healthy Feeding Decisions for Your family
While a lot of women have the option, there are parents who cannot breastfeed as expected, such as:
- Adoptive parents.
- Parents undergoing medical treatments, such as chemotherapy.
- Parents with a transmittable disease such as HIV or TB.
- Mothers struggling with low or no milk production.
- Mothers struggling with addiction.
- Parents taking medications not compatible with breastfeeding.
- Parents who get little to no maternity leave.
You need to make the right decision for your body and your reality. Amidst all the fear and anxiety, it can be easy to let the pressure get to you.
Take your time and evaluate all the facts and information available to you.
Sometimes, the baby may struggle with breast milk consumption. This might happen even if you are willing to breastfeed. In such a case, you need to talk to your health care provider.
Alternatives to breastfeeding include:
Milk sharing. If there are other mothers in your network producing more milk than they need, you can borrow or buy it. But, this is a highly controversial practice. Make sure you talk to your health care provider before taking milk from another mother.
Formula feeding. If breast milk is not an option, you can rely on formula to nourish your baby. Make sure you speak to a professional to get the right formula for your child. Children who react to breast milk will need a special infant formula. Your doctor can help you find the right one.
If you choose to breastfeed, you should take care of your breasts. Some healthy choices you can make while breastfeeding include:
Diet. Make healthy choices and choose foods that help increase milk production. If you struggle with consistent milk production, you may also need supplements. Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements.
Exercise. Moving or staying active will help both your physical and mental health. Make sure you get some physical activity at least 3 times a week.
Your nursing bras should:
- Give you easy access to the breasts.
- Come with removable padding to help with breast milk leaks.
- Offer enough flexibility to accommodate your breasts as they fill up with milk.
While breastfeeding, your breast can increase by a couple of cup sizes in a day. Your bra should expand to accommodate this growth.
The Importance of a Quality Nursing Bra
Whether you choose to breastfeed for a few weeks or a few years, you will need a quality maternity bra.
Your girls deserve 24/7 support.
You have a right to feel comfortable, beautiful, and confident in your bra.
New Bloom Maternity offers a wide selection of maternity bras. The bras come with:
- Adjustable fabric to give you the perfect fit at every stage of your breast’s growth.
- Easy access clasps for quick access to your breasts.
- Soft and breathable fabric for a comfortable experience. You need a fabric that feels good on you and your baby’s skin.
Maternity bra options from New Bloom Maternity include:
- The everyday maternity bra for everyday use. This is a bra you can wear day-in, day-out without worrying about the health of your breasts.
- The sleeping maternity bra for extra comfort throughout the night.
- The beautiful nursing bra for outings and special occasions. It’s designed for you to breastfeed in public.
Your motherhood journey is personal. Whatever decisions you make, make sure you invest in a New Bloom Maternity bra.