How Long Should Women Breastfeed for?

How long should women breastfeed for, is something that often troubles nursing moms. Not only that, you may also think about how to stop breastfeeding once your baby reaches a certain age?

How Long Should Women Breastfeed?

How long should women breastfeed for (extended breastfeeding) has always been a hot topic. While many nursing moms would be happy to lend the boobs to their newborns for a year, there are some who stretch it to 4 to 5 years.

It is entirely up to you. If you have decided to breastfeed your newborn baby, rest assured that your baby is among those lucky ones who are getting all the important nutrients that are only found in breast milk. 

6 months is good, 1 year is better, 2 years is the best.

Breastfeeding is extremely important for your baby till he or she is 6 months old. It is highly recommended that you continue to breastfeed your baby till he or she is one year old. Beyond that, if you continue doing so till he is 2 years old, it is definitely a good idea. Many women even breastfeed till their children enter preschool.

Whether or not breastfeeding a 3 year old is a good idea is still debatable. However, if you and your baby are comfortable with this routine, there is no medical evidence showing that it shouldn’t be done even when your baby reaches 3.

How long should women breastfeed depend upon many factors (besides the mother), such as the doctor's suggestion and the feeding traditions that are generally followed around her.

Generally, it is recommended that you should breastfeed your child until s/he is 2 years old. Many doctors (and cultures) recommend that once your baby starts taking proper meals and finishes off two solid years of breastfeeding ,it is then time for him/her to give you (and your boobs) a much-deserved break. 

Breastfeeding and Pumping:
If you feel you cannot breastfeed your child due to any limitation that is other than medical, you can always express your breast milk and feed your child via bottle. If, however, you are told not to breastfeed by your doctor due to some health issues, formula milk is an alternate approach. Whatever you do and how long you plan to breastfeed your baby is your own choice.

How Long Should I breastfeed for?

Believe it or not, you might be the best person to answer this question. We have seen mothers who have always expressed their breast milk; and also those who breast feed only till their baby starts weaning at the age of 4-6 months, or they decide to end this amazing feeding relationship as soon as the child blows the candle on his first birthday.

How long should you breastfeed for is totally up to you. If you find it convenient after the first year is over, continue for a "bonus" one year - one year of additional goodness! The more your child benefits from the breast milk, the better it is. If you have done extended breastfeeding until your child is 2-3 years, you have done your job really well ... I mean, really really well! 

Whatever you and your baby are comfortable with, go for that, and then be proud of it.

How to Stop Breastfeeding?

Okay, so you are now a pro at it, and your baby has been giving the healthy start s/he deserves. Now the question is: How to stop breastfeeding? 

For breastfeeding moms (specially the first-timers), there are two questions that definitely pop up sooner or later: When and how to discontinue breastfeeding?

It depends upon women's personal choice as to how long should women breastfeed for, but the strategies they use to stop breastfeeding are often the same.

Strategy # 1 - For your infant:

  1. Skip a breastfeeding session and replace it with a session of playtime accompanied with normal milk or formula milk (in case you want to switch from breast to exclusively bottle feeding), or a healthy snack (if your child is above six months or has started taking solids).
  2. Continue doing this for 3-4 days and then when your child is used to the new routine, skip another feeding session and so on.
  3. Ideally, using this technique your child should give up breastfeeding in a month.

Strategy # 2 - For your toddler:

No matter how long women breastfeed for, toddlers still want more! Here is how you can stop breastfeeding an older baby:

  1. If you have a toddler, it is easier for you to explain to him why he needs to leave breastmik or the bottle, and switch to the normal milk. As an incentive, you can go for chocolate flavored milk. You can purchase a pack of colorful straws and when it's his milk time, you can pour normal milk in a mug and ask him which color straw he wants to have. This will distract his mind.
  2. Generally the child may not notice his new routine at daytime, but at nighttime he would get cranky and may throw tantrums until he is breastfed.
  3. Try replacing his nighttime feeding routine with normal or flavored milk and lull the baby to sleep. You may find it hard for a couple of nights but then both you and your baby will fall into a routine. Distract your little one through bedtime stories and nursery rhymes.

Strategy # 3 - For you:

The hardest part of ending breastfeeding does not only come to your child, but to you as well. You may learn about how long should women breastfeed for, but everyone's experience is different when it comes to discontinuing it.

If you dread stopping breastfeeding because you might have painful and sore breasts, let us help you with the following information:

  • When you stop breastfeeding, your breasts will still fill up with milk, so try to pump out some milk from both the breasts. Do not empty both breasts; this will only trigger the milk production process. Only pump out a little amount so the breasts stop hurting you. Continue this for some days till your breasts adapt to the new routine. You do not have to throw the pumped milk. Even if your child is a toddler now, you can give him this milk in a sippy cup.
  • If you feel lumps in your breast, it might be due to the clogged milk ducts. Gently massage each breast till the lump dissolves. You might want to do it during shower as getting those lumps straightened may cause your breasts to leak.
  • Wear a nice firm bra and avoid the under-wired ones.
  • To sooth sore breasts, you could freeze a couple of lettuce leaves and then apply them on your breasts.

If you are still having difficulty or pain, you can always talk to your doctor. Remember, discontinuing breastfeeding is a natural process that all breastfeeding mothers go through. You are not alone here, so be focused on your goal and in a matter of weeks, you will be a proud mom who just finished up her breastfeeding routine, and then you will be telling other moms how to stop breastfeeding successfully!

Bottom line: How long should women breastfeed & how to discontinue

How long should women breastfeed for and how to stop breastfeeding is not as hard as you may think.

If you feel that you and your baby are enjoying this healthy process even when your baby has become a toddler and has started taking proper solids, you have all the right to choose to continue breastfeeding. Do not think that since your mother breastfed you for 6 months or your friend left the breastfeeding routine when her baby turned one, means that you also should follow their footsteps.

It’s all between you and your baby.

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