Many mother wonder if they should breastfeed and especially for how long they should breastfeed their child. There is no doubt that breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. Nursing your baby for a few days or weeks will benefit both of you. For the first 6 months of life, breast milk should be the only food of your child. After that, you can start giving your child formula milk and solid foods, such as mashed fruits and vegetables.
Brest milk and especially the colostrum (a sticky yellowish fluid produced right after birth) are rich in nutrients and antibodies. The colostrum is highly concentrated and easy to digest from the newborn’s immature system. Over the days, colostrum is replaced by transitory milk until the real breast milk comes in. It is well known that babies who were breastfeed in the beginning of their lives, intent to get less sick than other babies who were feed with formula milk. There is also known that children who were breastfeed have lower rates of certain illnesses as they grow up, like diabetes, asthma, childhood obesity, etc.
Breastfeeding during these early days is helpful for you as well as your baby. It helps you develop a special closeness to your child. Breastfeeding also helps your body recover more quickly from the childbirth. This is due to releasing of hormones that contract the uterus and reduce the postpartum bleeding. It is also a good protection method against pregnancies or a good method to loose wait. Breastfeeding also reduce the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer later in life.
Most mothers aren’t able to feed their child for a long period. They have to return to work and need the flexibility of bottle-feeding. They have difficulties learning how to breastfeed their child. In some cases they may have nipple pain, fear of feeding their child or even the fear of not having enough milk. In these cases instant formula milk is used, but this milk does not contain the antibodies found in breast milk. Formula milk when not correctly prepared, leads to infections due to unsafe water and unsterilized equipment.
When is the best time to stop breastfeeding?
When your baby is about one year old, you can stop breastfeeding, as all the necessary nutrients are provided from other food. But it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you and your baby. Most mothers choose to wean their baby off the breast when they are 4-7 months old. If you continue to breastfeed your child for a long time, it will be much harder for your baby to quit.
But, how should you stop breastfeeding? How long it will take my child to get used into bottles or eating food with a spoon? Should I stop immediately or gradually? These are some of the questions that normally concern mothers who are breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding should be stopped gradually. At the first stage let your baby finish a full breastfeed but also offer small portions of food. Some time is needed for your baby to adjust with other types of food. At the second stage, when your baby has started to eat well, you can try offering food before breastfeeding. Continue doing so, offering some other food before every breastfeed. At the third stage offer your baby other food, instead of breast milk. Start trying to adjust your baby to taking a bottle well before you attempt to start the weaning process. For most babies, the formula milk doesn’t taste good, in comparison to breast milk. The nipple on the bottle is foreign to the baby. The entire sucking process is different and the security of nursing from mom has been eliminated. Your baby will need time to accept all these changes.
Normally it may take a few weeks, sometimes a month or two for the baby to stop breastfeeding. In rare cases, this process can take up to six months, or even longer. Weaning may take longer if you try it before your baby is ready. This process is different for everyone, and depends on how quickly and how well your child adjusts.
An abrupt stop of breastfeeding is not recommended as it will cause confusion and rejection for the child, but also it could be uncomfortable for the mother, as it may result in swollen, tender and painful breasts. Normally, the milk supply will slowly reduce as the demand drops.
If you wish to stop breastfeeding without pain, you must plan on it taking some time. It is not something that will happen overnight. Try to be patient, if your baby is not ready to stop breastfeeding. Sooner or later, it will happen.