The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for a minimum of one year, and as long after that as baby and mother desire to continue. The Canadian Paediatrics Society, as well as the World Health Organization, recommend breastfeeding a minimum of two years, and as long after that as mother and baby desire. In many countries where breastfeeding is the norm, children nurse well into their toddler years. Children continue to benefit from the advantages of breast milk at all stages because they continue to receive custom-made antibodies that protect them from the disease-causing germs they are coming into contact with every day.
The benefits of breastfeeding are even greater when a baby is fed only breast milk (exclusive breastfeeding) and nursed long-term. The recommendation for exclusive breastfeeding is six months. This means the baby should receive only your milk—no supplements of formula, water, other fluids or solid foods are necessary. Around six months of age, your baby’s pediatrician will guide you through introducing solid foods into your baby’s diet.
Even with the addition of solid foods at six months, breast milk should continue to be the main source of food for your baby.
- A typical baby will feed eight to 12 times in a 24 hour period, but the number of feedings can vary. Some babies will eat frequently (feed every hour for two to six hours and then sleep for a longer period), and others will nurse every two to three hours consistently.
- On the average, infants will feed 15 to 20 minutes on each breast, but you do not need to restrict the time your baby nurses. Some will feed longer and want to feed from both breasts, and some only want one breast at each feeding.
- If a baby nurses on both breasts, start on the breast that your baby finished on during the last feeding. This will help provide adequate stimulation to both breasts and should keep both breasts producing milk.