How Long Should I Breastfeed For?

You’re probably looking for the answer for one of two reasons; Either you’re loving breastfeeding and wanting to carry it on forever? Or you’re counting down the days for when you can stop? We have the answers for you either option. 

Article Contents

Should I Breastfeed My Baby?

A huge debate for mums, and a big decision you will need to make, is breast vs bottle. A bit of a sensitive topic as each person is different and will have different views on the topic. Are you a breastfeeding supporter? We are going to delve into the benefits for both, but you must remember that the choice is yours. Sometimes the choice can be taken from you but everything is situational and you shouldn’t be hard on yourself. 

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Breastfeeding Benefits

🦠Infections:

Your baby can take in the breast milk and it can be used to resist illnesses. Your baby can then resist ear infections or other illnesses which can usually make them very poorly. 

🧪Digestion:

If your baby is breastfed then they will usually digest breast milk much easier than if they were fed with formula. This can ensure your baby is less gassy and will have less problems during feeding (remember your baby could be different). 

⚙️Cognitive Ability:

It is believed that babies who are breastfed have higher levels of cognitive function and are seen as more intelligent and are likely to reach their milestones much faster. Nothing like this is proven but the NHS will continue to do extensive research into the truth of this. 

👧🏻 Healthy Childhood:

Breastfed babies have their mum to thank for them having a minimal illness childhood. Their risks of the following are reduced dramatically; 

  • Overweight/Obesity, 
  • Leukaemia, 
  • Diabetes, 
  • Asthma. 

🤰🏽Bonding:

During the feeding time you and your baby can bond (even though you can still bond with your baby while bottle feeding them). It is proven that through breastfeeding, your abdominal muscles will continue to contract so think of it as a little ab workout every time you feed your little one. 

👩Mummy Problems:

You can find health benefits from breastfeeding also, as it is believed that your risks of developing certain health conditions are reduced dramatically. 

👋On Hand:

Your feeding supply is on hand whenever you need. You don’t need bottles, you don’t need to remember sterilisation times or anything of the sort, as long as you have yourself, your baby can be fed. 

💰Cost Effective:

You don’t have to pay for any formula so you save yourself a lot of money. Which will probably be spent in other ways by your little one. Even though they are small, they cost a lot. 

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Formula Feeding Benefits

📆Convenience:

Women who choose to bottle feed find it most convenient for them. You don’t have to fit in breastfeeding and possibly avoid leaving the house (for those who don’t feel comfortable). You can also leave your baby with family members and your baby can be fed by anyone at any time of the day. You can be less strict with your schedule. 

👨Partner Involvement:

With bottle feeding, your partner can be on hand during both day and night feeds, which can help the baby’s dad bond with your little one as well. You can get a little bit more rest at night and can have a little bit of freedom. 

⏱️Feeding Schedule:

Your baby can have a schedule for feeding but you don’t have to be there strictly for the schedule with bottle feeding. Formula can be made up as and when you need. 

🍽️Dietary Requirements:

You can eat and drink anything you want and don’t have to think about being cautious (within reason). You will be able to have an alcoholic drink without having to schedule it around trying to feed your little one. 

📎Endless Supply:

While it is considered a more expensive option, you will have an endless supply of formula as you can always stock up. This is convenient for those who can be under a lot of stress as your breast milk supply is reduced when run down or put under a lot of stress. 

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Is Breast Really Best?

This is a question which doesn’t actually have an answer, it’s an individual opinion/preference. Not everyone has the choice to breastfeed for different reasons so they will be better to feed their little one with formula, which is just as good. It has been a myth for as long as we can remember that “breast is best” but even with extensive research, it can’t be proven that it really is best. It’s your choice and you should not be shamed into thinking you should breastfeed. The same as feeling embarrassed to be out in public whilst breastfeeding. You might not be able to breastfeed for the following reasons; 

  • Low supply of breastmilk (possibly due to health conditions), 
  • Medications which restrict your ability to breastfeed, 
  • Diseases which can be passed through breast milk,
  • Your baby won’t take to breastfeeding, 
  • Your baby has any health condition which restricts them from having breast milk. 
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Why Isn’t My Baby Wanting to Breastfeed?

We can picture your disappointment. You’ve been planning to breastfeed for the longest time and now it’s come to it, your little one is simply refusing, being fussy or just spitting the milk all over the place. Frustrating, we know. There may be many reasons why your little one is just not a fan of breastfeeding right now and these can either resolve themselves or you can see a doctor and they can try and point you in the right direction or advise the relevant steps to help both you and your baby. Let’s look at the possible reasons why your little one can kick up a fuss at feeding time; 

🤰🏻Labour:

During labour your little one, although it does seem like you have it worse, has a traumatic experience when being squeezed and squished up into shapes which don’t look humanly possible. So it is understandable that they may be; 

  • Sore, uncomfortable or just physically exhausted (you and them both, huh?) 
  • Drowsy from any medications used during labour, such as the epidural. 
  • Uncomfortable from swallowing mucus during the delivery. 

😥Negative Experience:

Your little one may have had a negative experience in the early days of nursing, don’t turn to blaming yourself, you’re both learning and adapting to this new journey. You can have breastfeeding classes previous to giving birth which can help with this or you can be advised to see a lactation consultant who can advise different positions or other methods which can make it an easier process for both you and your little one. 

⏱️Seperation:

Even if your little one is removed from your care for minutes after birth, your baby can often struggle with latching on during feeding. This isn’t the end of the breastfeeding journey, you can keep trying and you might just find with a change of position or a simple head tilt can help when feeding your baby. 

👅Tongue-tie:

It can be very common for a baby to have a tongue-tie which will need the medical procedure in order to correct this and make feeding an easier process. 

You can seek medical advice from your doctor if you feel there is something wrong during your baby’s feed, it is important to remember as long as your baby is healthy and getting enough food, everything will work out just fine.

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What Should I Do If My Baby Isn’t Taking to Being Breastfed?

Here are a few tips and tricks which can encourage or help during breastfeeding your baby. It’s a journey both you and your baby are learning and adapting to each day, you’ll find a way that suits the both of you. 

💌Skin-to-skin:

Engaging in skin-to-skin contact with you baby can encourage your little one to latch better and have a full feed with limited fuss. You can try lying back at an angle and having your baby’s front lie directly against you, this is a position which has helped many women struggling with feeding. Hold your baby close and increase the physical contact as much as you can before and during the feed. 

🛀Calm and collected:

Both you and your baby need to be in a calm state of mind, which during feeding time with a fussy baby can often be quite the opposite. It is important to make feeding a soothing time, which can be easier said than done but you can try the following steps to help both mother and baby;

     Baby:

👶🏼Take a warm relaxing bath, using baby oils and lotions to calm your little one. 

👶🏼Ensure the environment in which you’re feeding is a calm, peaceful one. 

👶🏼Talk softly, have a soothing white noise playing in the background. 

👶🏼Find a position in which your little one feels most secure, hold them close. 

👶🏼Try to reduce the amount of contact your little one has from other people before feeds. 

    Mummy:

🤰🏻Minimise the amount of stress you’re currently under, eliminate unnecessary worries.

🤰🏻Take a warm bath and again use relaxing oils and lotions to calm you. 

🤰🏻Ask for help or advice from those around you, it’s best to feel supported through it. 

🤰🏻Keep your energy levels up, you need the energy to produce milk and feed. 

🤰🏻Take one feed at a time, it will be worth it in the end. 

🥛Expressing:

You should try to keep expressing your milk, even if your little one isn’t taking to breastfeeding. This can increase your milk supply and soften the breast enough for your little one to latch. You can feed your baby the expressed milk with a syringe or spoon whilst you’re both adapting to breastfeeding. You can also try nipple stimulation which can help your milk production. 

🍼Nipple Confusion:

Babies who alternate from breast to bottle will have real difficulty when trying to breastfeed as they will be confused about what they need to do when latching, sucking and swallowing. This can also be the case with babies who are given dummies also. 

🍽️Food & Drink:

Keep track of what you’re eating and drinking throughout the day, there may be a food or drink that your baby is sensitive to which will restrict them from breastfeeding. This can cause them to be fussy when feeding or just outright refuse to feed. 

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When Should I Stop Breastfeeding?

Again, this is completely down to personal preference. You could be a woman who loves the connection it brings her and her little one and want to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible. But you could also be a mother who is sick of breastfeeding now and is counting down to the day they can pack it all in. It is however recommended to exclusively breastfeed without the interruption of formula, juice or water for at least the first 6 months. But if breastfeeding is working for both you and your baby, you can continue to breastfeed even further than the 12 month mark. 

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