As a new mom, you want only the best for your baby. However, it’s important to know when you can stop breastfeeding and wean the baby at the right time.
Obviously, there are well-known benefits of breastfeeding your baby. According to experts, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics, mothers should breastfeed their babies until they are at least six months old. For those first six months of life, it’s advised to exclusively feed breastmilk to babies. Afterward, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding for the first year of your baby’s life in addition to introducing other foods by the six-month mark.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding your baby carries a variety of benefits. It’s important to know about these things if you are averse to nursing your baby this way or if your child has a problem with taking your breast. Certain benefits come at different stages and ages, including the following:
- First days of life: For the first few days of your baby’s life, they should absolutely be fed with your milk. At the very least, you should breastfeed within the first hour of your infant’s life. This gives you the chance to bond due to the skin-to-skin contact and allows your baby to get colostrum, the initial part of breastmilk that provides babies with essential nutrients and antibodies.
- First month of life: In the first month, breastfeeding allows your baby to get more antibodies, protecting them against various infections and health problems involving digestion.
- Three to four months of life: By the third to fourth month of life, your baby gets the benefit of protection against certain allergens while nursing from your breast.
- Six months of life: By six months, babies still get necessary vitamins and nutrients from breastmilk as well as protection against disease.
- Nine months of life: By nine months old, babies should be getting breastfed prior to eating table foods.
- One year old: Breastfeeding your baby at one year can benefit you by saving you money on formula. The baby’s immune system is also stronger, and speech and orthodontics can also benefit.
- Past one year old: Around this time of your child’s life, you can begin using a substitute for your milk such as cow’s milk.
What Is Weaning?
As you begin to introduce other foods into your child’s diet, the weaning process has officially started. Generally speaking, weaning occurs when your baby stops taking breastmilk and goes to consuming formula, cow milk, or regular table foods.
When Should You Wean?
The WHO and the Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies be breastfed until they are at least six months old, but you can continue to nurse them from your breast for longer, such as up to one year old or even past one year. In most cases, moms like to let their babies decide when to begin weaning. Regardless, it is a personal decision that depends on you and your baby and what seems to work the best regardless of your child’s age.
The Weaning Process
Usually, babies who decide when to wean offer their mothers some sort of warning. Usually, this is a slow process, so if your baby suddenly won’t take your breast, it might simply mean they aren’t hungry or a temporary strike on nursing.
Breastfeeding begins to taper off in duration as your baby ages. You will notice that they are more interested in other foods, skills and playing. It’s common for children to go from nursing a few times per day to maybe once or twice a day and even down to only a few times per month.
At the end of the day, how long you want to breastfeed your baby depends on both you and your child. This is a highly personal issue, and babies can certainly continue to benefit from breastfeeding even as they become toddlers. You may also want to speak with your pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.
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