Reviewed by: Michael W. Woolridge B.Sc., DPhil
As a new mom, wanting the best for your baby is always at the top of your list. While this manifests in many ways, one of the main concerns that comes up is how long you should breastfeed your little one for. Whatever you decide, it’s important to remember that you can always find a balance that works for your personal needs. People will try to offer guidance on your breastfeeding journey, but remember, you and your family are solely in charge of this decision.
With all of the options and advice out there, it can be hard to know what’s right. We’re here to help you learn more about the breastfeeding process so you can get closer to making a decision that’s right for your family. Let’s start with some helpful information.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
There are many benefits of breastfeeding that you may already be familiar with, many of which speak to the special bonding experience you can create with your little one. Along with developing that unique connection, here are some other breastfeeding benefits to keep in mind:
Provides nutrition – Breast milk provides a lot of abundant and easily absorbed nutritional components for your baby. However, these nutritional gains diminish overtime as weaning foods take over as a main source of nutrients.
Provides antibodies – Antibodies like immunoglobulin A (IgA) in Mom’s milk help babies develop a h3 immune system while also fighting off viruses and bacteria. Much like the first breast milk a mother produces or “colostrum,” the last breast-feed will be made up of pure antibodies. These antibodies remain effective against any intercurrent infection Mom has come in contact with (i.e. gastro-enteritis, respiratory infections, COVID-19 and even HIV).
Can reduce risk of infections – While this varies from baby to baby, some research shows that breastfeeding your baby can help lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, cold & infections, ear infections and more.
Promotes baby’s healthy weight – Various studies show that breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which can lead to a healthier gut microbiome. Over time a baby’s microbiome will diversify, which directly correlates with their health. More gut bacteria also affects fat storage and can help avoid obesity. Leptin can also be found in Mom’s breast milk, a key hormone for regulating appetite.
Increases Mom’s physical health – There are many benefits of breastfeeding for Mom too. Studies show that women who breastfeed have a lower risk for high blood pressure, arthritis, high blood fats, heart disease, overiand & pre-menopausal breast cancer, and diabetes.
Increases Mom’s mental health – Research shows that breastfeeding can lower the risk of postpartum depression in some cases, creating a special mood-boosting bond between Mom and baby.
Tips for breastfeeding
The first thing to keep in mind is that breastfeeding takes patience both from Mama and baby. Baby might take some time to latch on to your nipple, and that’s totally normal. Once your little one finally latches on, the first feeding may last up to 30-45 minutes, maybe longer - there are no time constraints so long as your little one is latched on correctly. It’s important not to disturb them until they come off your breast naturally.
If your baby is struggling to latch, it’s recommended that you avoid giving them any artificial teats or pacifiers while you’re trying to breastfeed. This avoids any confusion and helps your baby stay focused. Always remember that you can reach out to your healthcare provider for helpful tips and tricks along the way as well.
When should you stop breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding your baby is a personal journey. While it’s up to you to decide what makes sense for your family, it can be hard to make tough decisions like stopping the breastfeeding process on your own. Don’t worry, we’re here to help offer some support in this area so you can make the right choice for you and your baby.
One thing to keep in mind is that you have many options. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding as long as “mutually desired by mother and infant,” The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) (in line with several international agencies - WHO, UNICEF) recommends breastfeeding for at least two years. With that being said, at the end of the day, the reasons to stop or keep going are entirely personal. It may help you to read about just a few common reasons mothers stop breastfeeding after an extended period of time:
Social judgment – Making a decision about how long to breastfeed your baby is entirely up to you, your partner, and your baby. According to the AAP & AAFP, breastfeeding beyond one year is entirely justified. While there’s a stigma around this topic that makes a lot of moms feel isolated and unsure about their personal choice, companies like Emulait are here to truly support all babies and all families so they can find the best feeding experience for their families without judgment. Learn more here!
Unexpected pain – Although this depends entirely on your body and your baby, some mothers experience pain later in the lactation process. If this is the case, we recommend seeking medical or clinical guidance as this could be a sign of infection, an abscess and/or something else. Seek medical attention if you’re concerned and remember that these are not reasons to discontinue breastfeeding. That remains entirely your choice.
Exclusive vs. combination feeding
If you’re still unsure if exclusively breastfeeding is the right choice for you, you have options. Combination feeding is a great option if you want to make feeding possible by other parents or caregivers. At Emulait(™), our first-of-its-kind biomimetic bottle is the perfect option for those combining breastfeeding and bottle feeding, those exclusively bottle feeding, and those transitioning from breastfeeding. The Emulait bottle replicates the breast to make the transition easier for you along the way.
Keep in mind that no matter what you read online, your mother’s intuition about the decision to exclusively breastfeed or combination feed knows best.
What we’ve learned
Every Mom’s breastfeeding journey is different and uniquely personal. When we get rid of judgment, we create a better system for families to find what’s best for them and their bundles of joy.
At Emulait™, we support all babies and all families with options for everyone. Our flexible and unique approach to providing the best feeding journey makes it easier to find what’s best for you and yours, truly. Learn more today.
Wisner, W. (2020, March 25). Extended breastfeeding: Can you nurse for too long? Healthline. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/breastfeeding/extended-breastfeeding
How long should you breastfeed? Nationwide Children's Hospital. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/family-resources-library/how-long-should-you-breastfeed
Bjarnadottir, A. (2020, August 13). 11 benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby. Healthline. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.healthline.com/health/breastfeeding/11-benefits-of-breastfeeding
Formula supplementation of breastfed infants: Helpful ... - sage journals. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1941406415591208
'if they want to risk the health and well-being of their child, that's up to them': Long-term breastfeeding, risk and maternal identity. Taylor & Francis. (n.d.). Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13698571003789674
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 27). Breastfeeding benefits both baby and mom. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpao/features/breastfeeding-benefits/index.html
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provided for any medical advice, diagnoses, treatment, or health objectives.