The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for up to 6 months. But what does full-term breastfeeding mean?
How long should I breastfeed my baby? This is one of the questions a pregnant woman asks herself. For the health of mother and baby, it is desirable that breastfeeding lasts as long as possible, up to 2 years and beyond. WHO recommends breastfeeding exclusively until the sixth month of life. The Ministry of Health recognizes that breastfeeding is the natural and normal way of feeding in early childhood as breast milk provides all the nutrients the infant needs in the first six months of life. The Ministry also stresses that breastfeeding is a benefit for women’s health. The lasting positive effects on the health of the child and mother make the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding one of the most relevant public health interventions in terms of effectiveness and cost-benefit ratio.
In this article
What is full-term breastfeeding
Breastfeeding to term means respecting the baby’s schedule, letting him detach himself when he feels ready, which normally happens after the age of two. Usually after the first 6 months, with weaning the baby will stop feeding only mother’s milk:
- the baby will start eating other foods and these will gradually become his main source of nourishment
- the mother will return to work or to the activities she did before pregnancy without this implying having to give up breastfeeding
Breast milk never has the same composition over time and the same consistency during the course of the feed. To better adapt to the growth needs of the newborn, in fact, over time it changes its formula, making it unique and inimitable. After the first three days, the colostrum milk changes composition (transition milk) to its definitive composition (definitive milk) which will take place within a few weeks.
The benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby
Here are the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby:
- reduces the incidence and duration of gastroenteritis
- protects against respiratory infections
- reduces the risk of developing allergies
- improves vision and psychomotor development
- improves intestinal development and reduces the risk of occlusions
- contributes to a better conformation of the mouth
- protects against ear infections
- reduces the risk of diabetes and cancers of the lymphatic system
Not only the baby, but also the mother has significant advantages in breastfeeding her little one.
And here are the benefits for mom:
- it is free, there are no preparation costs
- it is practical: always ready at the right temperature
- stimulates the natural contraction of the uterus by reducing natural postpartum bleeding and allowing the uterus to return to normal size faster
- helps to lose the weight accumulated during pregnancy
- reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis
- prevents some forms of breast and ovarian cancer
Emotional nourishment too
Breast milk is not just nutrition. There are also benefits from a relationship and emotional development point of view from prolonged breastfeeding. The breast is consolation, accompanied by a maternal embrace, gestures and words. All these moments of physical closeness and exchange strengthen the emotional bond.
How to stop breastfeeding
Sometimes it is the baby who, day after day, decides to require less and less breast milk. However, if the mother makes the decision, ending breastfeeding can be a little more difficult, especially if the baby is still small. Always talking to the gynecologist is best. The important thing now is to do it gradually and not suddenly, for two main reasons:
- avoid the formation of breast engorgement, which could develop into mastitis. In this sense, it can be useful to learn how to express the breast manually: if, by thinning the feeds, the breast becomes too full between feeds and the other, the expressing can give relief and prevent the formation of congestion.
- avoid excessive suffering to the child. It is useless to go around it: for the baby, completely abandoning the breast is a small trauma, which, however, can be experienced in a more or less stressful and “painful” way depending on how the transition is managed.
Sources article Ministry of Health