While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding an infant for a full year, statistics show that only 64 percent of U.S. women breastfeed in the early postpartum period, and only 29 percent of them continue to breastfeed six months after birth.
How long should you breastfeed your baby? Only you and your baby will know for sure. Even if you breastfeed for just a few days, your baby will receive invaluable protection from infection. The health effects of breastfeeding accrue over time, so the longer you breastfeed, the better for your baby. Breastfeeding offers you benefits, too. The following information may help you decide.
If you're expecting a baby you've undoubtedly heard that "breast is best." Breastfed babies are healthier. They are less likely to have diarrhea, suffer from ear infections, develop allergies. They have better immune systems, better protection against SIDS, and are less likely to need braces, become obese, or develop certain childhood cancers.
At some point, every mother stops breastfeeding. Some start thinking about stopping not long after they've begun. Others find that nursing becomes such an important and rewarding part of their lives that they feel like they could go on forever.
One of the most challenging choices new parents face is how to feed their baby in those first months of life. No doubt you have already received enthusiastic advice from friends and family members who favor one feeding method over the other. Your choice should be based on a good understanding of infant nutritional and emotional needs, and an honest assessment your own situation.