Common Breastfeeding Questions and Answers
Renate Abstoss, IBCLC
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Parents of newborns have lots and lots of breastfeeding questions.
First and foremost, moms and dads should know that there is no such thing as a silly question . Every concern is valid and we strive to answer all breastfeeding questions with factual, evidence-based information.
If you're new to breastfeeding, you may have a few common breastfeeding questions:
How long should I breastfeed?
There is no one right answer to this. The first three months are the most important for giving breast milk to your baby. Why?
- Your newborn doesn't yet have a functioning immune system.
- Your baby's bone marrow won't start producing its own immunities until 3 months.
- It isn't until 6 months of age when your baby achieves full immune competence.
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that there is no food or milk as valuable to your infant as breast milk. Babies benefit from breast milk the first year of their lives and beyond.
When deciding how long and how often to breastfeed your baby, ask yourself these questions:
- What is your lifestyle like? Do you have time to nurse a baby around the clock?
- What cultural factors come into play? What support systems do you have in place?
- Do you plan to return to work, and if so, when? Will it be possible to continue breastfeeding and pumping during work?
How long can I breastfeed?
Your milk ducts work like this: as long is milk is removed from the breast either by nursing or pumping, the milk supply will replenish. Fun fact: The longest known lactation period was around sixty whole years by a milkmaid in southern France. She had a baby at age 13 in the 18th century and had a lifelong career as a wet nurse. She worked for the same family until she retired at 70-something. Quite the career!
How long should a child be breastfeeding?
What a loaded question! No one but the mother can answer that. It's important to take each individual child’s needs into account, as long as it works well for mom, baby and the family.
Around the world, even today, the usual length of breastfeeding varies greatly. It can range from a few months in much of the developed world, to a year or more in areas with less food security. Some moms breastfeed for over four years in certain traditional cultures.
In imperial China, princes were breastfed until their seventh birthday by wet nurses. Princesses, however, were weaned off after a year!
Breastfeeding is a wonderful gift for each baby, no matter how long it lasts.