The Basics of Breastfeeding

Jul 23, 2022 | Children's Health

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Pediatricians recommend breastfeeding as your baby’s sole source of nutrition for the first six months, and with other food until your child’s first birthday. Breastfeeding can be continued for as long as both mother and baby want.

Breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant needs. As the baby grows, breast milk changes to meet the infant’s nutritional requirements. It protects against common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, and may also have longer-term health benefits for both mother and child.

How Long To Breastfeed?

Mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their children for at least a year, pediatricians say. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months. After that, mothers should continue breastfeeding while gradually introducing solid foods into the baby’s diet.

The AAP and WHO recommend breastfeeding with complementary foods for two years or longer.

The Benefits

Breastfeeding helps both infants and mothers.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of:

  • Asthma
  • Obesity
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Lower respiratory disease
  • Ear infections
  • Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

And mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of:

  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure

Your Legal Rights

Some mothers may be concerned about the legality of breastfeeding in public. The United States government is supportive of mothers who choose to breastfeed in public.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location. 

Federal law requires employers to support breastfeeding mothers for one year after childbirth by providing mothers with reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space to express their breast milk.

When it comes to traveling, the Transportation Security Administration permits air travelers to bring breast milk, formula or juice in their carry-on baggage. It’s a rare exclusion to their regulations surrounding liquid carry-on items.

Breastfeeding Tips

Breastfeeding doesn’t always happen easily, especially in the beginning. Don’t get frustrated. Here are a few tips.

Getting connected. You’d think it would happen automatically—and sometimes it does—but often it takes practice to get the baby latched onto the nipple. Get comfortable, guide the baby into place, and be prepared to try again until you get a proper seal.

Find the right position. Experiment with a few different breastfeeding positions until you find what works best for you. These include the cradle hold, crossover hold, football hold, laid-back position and side-lying position.

Ask for help. You don’t have to do this alone. Lactation consultants will be available at the hospital or birthing center, and many even make house calls. Take a breastfeeding class or join a mothers’ group.

Access breastfeeding support across our health system:

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