It is well known that breast milk is the ideal diet for a baby in the first few months of life. But maybe you too are wondering how long should you breastfeed? You are not alone with this question. Because many mothers ask themselves exactly this question because they are insecure.
How often and for how long to breastfeed
First of all, it always depends on your state of health whether and for how long you can breastfeed. Your current life situation can also have an impact on feeding your baby what is generally considered to be the ideal diet for newborns in the first few months.
Experts advise full breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life. But of course there are always mothers for whom this doesn’t work so well. This can have very different reasons, such as:
- Not enough milk
- Painful inflammation of the nipples
- Health restrictions and illnesses of the mother, such as
- Cancer, herpes or other infectious diseases
- Alcohol and / or drug addiction
- Excessive use of tobacco
- Cultural reasons
Note: Remember that your baby’s breast milk also absorbs those toxic components that are in your body.
However, a metabolic disease in the infant itself can also be a reason why it is not breastfed at all, if possible. Because breast milk, which is otherwise so healthy, often contains certain substances that cannot be reconciled with it.
In addition, there are also diseases in children that either make breastfeeding impossible or only temporarily impossible:
- The baby was born prematurely
- The infant refuses the breast
- The newborn has a so-called weak suckling problem
- The baby was diagnosed with a cleft lip and palate
- The child suffers from the Pierre Robin Sequence, a congenital malformation
- The baby suffers from choanal atresia, i.e. a blockage of the posterior nostril
How long you ultimately want or want to breastfeed depends on the individual requirements or circumstances.
Most healthy mothers find the breastfeeding period extremely intimate. Last but not least, it is the calm atmosphere and the very special closeness to the baby that is why many women also choose long-term breastfeeding.
How long should a breastfeeding meal last?
Basically, the length of a breastfeeding meal will depend on your baby. Because it practically decides by itself when to let go of your chest again. So give your child the time it takes to drink their fill.
That in turn also depends on when the really nutritious milk comes. Because breastfeeding can be divided into three phases:
- With the baby’s first suckling, the first milk comes, which is often referred to as the thirst quencher. This milk has very few calories.
- After about 20 minutes, the nutritious milk will pour in if you give your baby time to suckle one of the breasts. This second milk is very high in calories and forms the main meal for your baby, so to speak.
- When you finally place the baby on the second breast, you will get a mixture of starting milk and filling milk. So your child also gets a dessert.
All in all, breastfeeding can take up to an hour. It should be noted here that it usually only takes up to 20 minutes at the beginning for the high-calorie milk to pour in for you.
Later, when you and your baby are a well-rehearsed team, this will often only take 5 to 10 minutes.
No matter how long the breastfeeding takes in the end: Give yourself and your baby this time.
Relax, avoid unnecessary time pressure and enjoy watching your child drink their fill.
Tip : You don’t have to worry about overfeeding your baby with breast milk. Because even if it may take a little longer, your baby will let go of your breast on its own when it is full.
What difference does it make whether the baby is suckling or drinking?
With their first child, many young mothers cannot really tell whether the baby is actually drinking or just sucking on the warm breast with satisfaction.
But it is not good for you or your nipples if the baby just sucks with satisfaction instead of drinking. Because this softens the skin around your nipple and can ultimately lead to sore and painful nipples.
So if you’re not sure, you can easily check whether your baby is suckling or still drinking. To do this, place two fingers of your free hand above the nipple and apply light pressure.
This causes a slightly stronger flow of milk for a moment. If you now feel a rhythmic movement in your baby, then you can be sure that it is still drinking.
If this is not the case, however, and the milk may even run out of the corners of the baby’s mouth, then it must have fallen asleep. In this case, it is better if you stop breastfeeding.
But be careful! Most of the time, you can’t just take the baby away. Because normally your child has really sucked in. It is better to gently slide your little finger between the corner of your baby’s mouth and your nipple. So the suction can be easily interrupted.
Are there cultural differences in breastfeeding?
The breastfeeding process itself does not differ culturally. But how long have you been breastfeeding? In Africa, for example, or among indigenous peoples in South America and elsewhere, it is normal for babies to be breastfed for a very long time. Numbers from one to three years are known here.
In Western cultures, however, it is usually a little different. On average, one can safely assume that the babies will be breastfed between six and 12 months.
At least if the mothers make full use of their parental leave, as in Germany, for example. By contrast, in countries where it is more normal for infants to be sent to daycare at six weeks of age, breastfeeding tends to be short, if at all.
Why you should breastfeed in the first place
Aside from the incredibly intense closeness you feel when breastfeeding, there are mainly health reasons why you should breastfeed whenever possible.
Because breast milk is particularly nutritious for your baby and contains all the important vitamins and nutrients it needs. At the same time, you automatically protect your newborn from pathogens.
At least until its small body has properly activated its own defenses and can produce enough antibodies itself.But did you know that breastfeeding has a positive effect on brain growth? If you breastfeed for three months, the white matter in the brain will have grown 20 to 30 percent faster than it does in children who are not breastfed.
This substance is important for better brain activity when it comes to communication between the different areas in the baby’s brain. It may well be that your child can learn faster and better, to name just one example.
Scientists have also found that children who have been breastfed for at least three to six months are later less prone to obesity, cardiovascular diseases or type II diabetes.
Basically, by breastfeeding you are laying a good foundation for your baby to develop faster and better.
What does long term breastfeeding mean?
Many mothers have chosen to breastfeed their baby longer than the average recommended six months. In our society, anything that is breastfed beyond that is referred to as long-term breastfeeding. Even if this term is not entirely correct.
Because, as with the conventional breastfeeding duration, you cannot commit yourself to a certain period of time. Even with a longer period of breastfeeding, it always depends on whether mother and child feel comfortable with it.
What are the advantages of long-term breastfeeding?
- Mother and child can maintain the particularly intimate relationship that occurs with breastfeeding for a long time and enjoy it together.
- Children who are breastfed for a longer period of time and are already consuming complementary foods are optimally supplied with all the vitamins and minerals they need.
- The child is adequately protected from pathogens through breast milk, even if the child’s own immune system is already functioning excellently.
What are the disadvantages of long-term breastfeeding?
Basically, there are no real drawbacks to long-term breastfeeding. Because what Mother Nature has set up in this way cannot be bad in principle.
However, many mothers see it as a disadvantage that they are more attached for longer than other mothers. Because just going out in the evening is much more difficult with a breastfeeding child than with a child who is no longer breastfed.
How long you breastfeed depends on many factors. But basically it always depends on whether you and your baby feel comfortable with it. Then nothing speaks against a longer duration of breastfeeding.