Besides the 6-month mark, it’s common for mums to give up breastfeeding when bubba is 6 weeks or 3 months. Sioned Hilton, a UK lactation consultant, says that many mothers start mixed feeding or switching over to formula entirely at 6 weeks.
At 3 months, babies tend to have a growth spurt, so mothers often (incorrectly) perceive that they have insufficient milk and stop breastfeeding. It’s also around this time that fatigue creeps in and they want others to help with feeding.
When to breastfeed
Follow the baby’s lead, says Di Bustamante, international director of ParentLink which conducts parenting and childbirth courses. If you wonder if your baby is truly hungry, Bustamante notes, “When your baby suckles at his fist, licks his lips, and roots for the breast ― these are the early signs of hunger. Crying is actually a late sign of hunger. At the beginning of a cry, you will hear a “neh” sound. This is an indicator of hunger. Newborns usually feed feed every one-and-a-half to two hours.”
“When your baby suckles at his fist, licks his lips, and roots for the breast ― these are the early signs of hunger.”
If your baby is getting enough milk and content, she cries less and gains weight. She adds, “Where there is input, there is output. At the end of the first week, parents should see at least six wet nappies and three poos daily — the more the merrier.”
* Feed as much as your baby wants to stimulate your milk supply But if your baby is suckling for 45 minutes, then hungry an hour later, your latch may need some work. As this is exhausting and may cause cracked nipples, consult a lactation expert.
* Look for a good latch Your baby’s top and bottom lips should both be spread out and her cheeks will look full. You should see her jawline and ear moving, and hear swallowing. Her chin and nose should be touching your breast.
* Go skin to skin Nikki Khan, a midwife with 25 years’ experience, suggests skin-to-skin contact and cups of fennel tea. “Both are great for stimulating your milk supply. And take your baby to breast, not the other way around, remembering to support her neck.”
6 weeks old
* Introduce a bottle If you’re thinking of introducing a bottle of expressed milk or formula, do it now. “Breastfeeding should hopefully be established and your baby will take it more easily now. The best time to express is in the morning,” Khan notes.
* Don’t worry about nipple confusion Some lactation experts say introducing bottles too early creates nipple confusion and can result in a baby rejecting the breast. UK maternity nurse Tess Randall reassures, “In my experience, this just doesn’t happen. If you don’t introduce a bottle early on, your baby may refuse to take one a few months down the line when you want dad to do a feed, or stop breastfeeding altogether.”
12 weeks old
* Wake her during feeds “She should be taking a good feed that keeps her going for a few hours. If she nods off mid-feed, wake her gently by burping or changing her, so that she can continue,” advises UK breastfeeding counsellor Louisa Van den Bergh.
5 months old
* Limit distractions “This is often the age when she becomes distracted during her feed,” Van den Bergh notes. “She may pull off the nipple to look around, so find a nice quiet area to ensure that she gets a proper feed.”
“Feeding your child is only one part of parenting. It has to work for you. If it doesn’t, then you should set your own agenda.”
6 months old
* Get the balance right “You don’t want her rejecting milk to eat food, or the other way around,” Khan points out. “Babies need certain vitamins and minerals from their food. But, in the first year, milk is still their main source of nutrition.”
* Find other ways to comfort “A newborn needs the breast for comfort as well as food,” says Van den Bergh. “But, as the months go on, avoid using it as a sleep tool. Settle her in other ways, such as with a comfort object.” And see if her crying is about something else — a dirty diaper, she’s overtired or teething.
How long should you nurse?
According to the World Health Organization, women should breastfeed exclusively for the first six months (no solid food, no water) and to continue to do so for the first two years of her child’s life and beyond.
With changing attitudes and a rise in attachment parenting, along with better facilities and gadgets, some mothers these days are also choosing to nurse longer. Other women decide to end breastfeeding for greater flexibility. So, while the six-month goal is great, how you feed your child and for how long is like every other aspect of parenting — you need to find a balance.
If you’re returning to work, there are ways to carry on breastfeeding. You can express with a pump to bank a supply of breastmilk in the fridge and freezer for when you’re not at home — use sterile plastic bags made for storing milk. You can also get advice from a breastfeeding counsellor.
Lactation consultant Sioned Hilton notes, “While the six-month goal is a fantastic one — breastfeeding has many health benefits for mum and baby — feeding your child is only one part of parenting. It has to work for you. If it doesn’t, then you should set your own agenda.”
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