For How Long Should I Breastfeed my Baby?

Monday, 25 Oct 2010 11:08 AM

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It goes without saying that breast milk is a complete food for your baby. Compared to formulas that require preparation and are costly, breast milk provides the right nourishment for your newborn and costs nothing. Babies fed with formula may not get enough nourishment and may suffer from more infections.  
 
The right combination of nutrients in breast milk boosts your baby’s immune system. Breast milk is easy to digest and protects against infections and allergies. The one question that all new moms ask is: “How long should I breastfeed my baby?” While the opinion is divided as to the exact number of months, breastfeeding for a minimum of six months is the unanimous recommendation. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. Your baby’s chances for growth are optimum during the first six months of life. 
 
If you can breastfeed the baby for the first year, your baby should be very healthy. When you are nursing, make sure that you eat a healthy diet and drink plenty of liquids. And when you breastfeed, ensure the position is comfortable to both yourself and the baby. 
 
You can breastfeed four to six times a day or as often as your baby demands. Once your baby turns a year old, you can breastfeed one to two times a day. By the time the baby is 18 months old, solid foods can account for a major portion of its diet.  
 
You can begin to wean your baby from six months to one year of age. Especially if you have to get back to work, you can start weaning after six months of breast-feeding. Weaning is the process of introducing your baby to new foods and thus reducing their dependency on breast milk. Do not abruptly wean your baby unless it is for medical reasons. Rather, wean the baby gradually over a period of time. If you wean before 12 months, you need to formula feed your child. Avoid giving your baby solid foods before he or she is four months of age, and do not give dairy foods until your baby is one year old.  
 
When you start weaning, soft lumps of cooked vegetables and cereal and finely chopped or pureed fruits can be given. You will have to be patient as the child adjusts to the new foods at its own pace. You may encounter some resistance as your baby may not like the new food.  You can continue to breastfeed during this period.  
 
However, if you wish, you can continue breastfeeding your baby till he or she is two-years old. Breastfeeding leaves mothers content with the knowledge that they can satisfy their child’s nutritional needs naturally.  

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