Woman breast feeding baby

Breastfeeding 101 | WIC Breastfeeding Support

Breastfeeding is a special gift that only you can give your baby. But there's a lot to learn, and it may take some time to get the hang of it. WIC can help. The more you know, the more comfortable you will feel the first time you breastfeed your baby.

From facts about breast milk to signs that your baby is hungry, WIC has the information you need. Learn how to prepare for the first few feedings. See why holding your baby skin-to-skin is so important. Find out how your breast milk changes. And discover how much milk your growing baby needs.
Breastfeeding is worth it—for your baby, you, and your entire family.
Here's what you need to get started!

Breastfeeding Benefits

Breastfeeding gives babies a healthy start—and is good for moms, too.

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Breastfeeding Basics

Learn how milk is made, when to nurse, how long babies nurse, and more.

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Common Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding challenges are common, but knowing what to expect and when to get help can help you overcome them.

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Breastfeeding Supplies

You don’t need any fancy equipment, but some things can make breastfeeding easier.

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Planning for Your Delivery

Set yourself up for breastfeeding success starting on day one.

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Letter to Your Future Self

Breastfeeding can be challenging. Write a letter to your future self to help you recommit on the hard days.

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Talk to Your Family about Breastfeeding

Talk about why you choose to breastfeed, and ask for your family’s support.

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Delivery Room 101

Baby is on the way! Here’s what to expect when you’re in the hospital.

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Bringing Baby Home

Your baby is here! See what to expect your first few days at home.

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The Phases of Breast Milk

Learn about the 3 phases of breast milk and why each is good for your baby.

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How Breast Milk is Made

The human body is amazing. Find out how your breasts make milk for your baby.

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Setting Your Breastfeeding Goals

Set your short- and long-term goals for breastfeeding before baby arrives.

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How Much Milk Your Baby Needs

See how small a newborn’s tummy is and learn how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk.

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Baby's Hunger Cues

Learn how to tell when your baby is hungry—or full.

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Nutrition While Breastfeeding

A nutritious, balanced diet helps you stay energetic and make plenty of milk for your baby.

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5 Breastfeeding Holds to Try

Try these ways to hold your baby, and figure out what works best for you.

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Clutch or "Football" Hold

Use the clutch hold to breastfeed your baby.

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Cross-Cradle or Transitional Hold

Use the cross-cradle hold to breastfeed your baby.

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Cradle Hold

Use the cradle hold to breastfeed your baby.

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Laid-Back or Straddle-Hold

Use the laid-back hold to breastfeed your baby.

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Side-Lying Position

Use the side-lying position to breastfeed your baby.

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Steps and Signs of a Good Latch

These tips help you get a good latch—and know if you have one.

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Get Support from WIC

Whether you’re just starting out or having challenges, WIC is there for you at every step.

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Cluster Feeding and Growth Spurts

Learn about cluster feeding and what to expect during baby’s growth spurts.

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Breast and Nipple Size and Shape

You can breastfeed no matter what the size and shape of your breast and nipple.

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Ways Your Friends and Family Can Help You

Learn about the ways your friends and family can support you.

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What's in Your WIC Food Package

What’s in your food package depends on whether you’re breastfeeding and your baby’s age.

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How Much Milk Will I Express?

Most moms make just the right amount for their baby.

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Weaning Your Baby

Knowing when and how to wean baby can be confusing. Learn how you can make the process a positive one.

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Using Bottles with a Breastfed Baby

Planning to be apart from baby? Find tips for feeding baby with expressed milk.

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Pumping and Hand Expression Basics

New to milk expression? Here’s what you need to know before you get started.

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Learning to Pump and Hand Express Milk

It may take practice, but soon you’ll be a pro at pumping and hand expression.

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Breastfeeding and Alcohol, Drugs, and Smoking

Limit or avoid smoking, most drugs, and alcohol for baby’s health and yours.

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Traveling with your Baby

Set yourself up for success while traveling and breastfeeding.

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Breastfeeding during Disasters

Breastfeeding During Disasters

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Breastfeeding Benefits Quiz

You know that breastfeeding has benefits for baby (and mom!) so try this quiz to see how much you know!

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Returning to Work or School and Breastfeeding Quiz

Planning ahead may make the transition to work or school easier. Take this quiz to gather tips to feel prepared and confident to meet your breastfeeding goals when you return to school or work.

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Understanding Baby Hunger Cues Quiz

Feeding your baby is important for their growth and development. Get a better understanding of your baby’s hunger cues with this quiz!

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Planning for Your Delivery Quiz

Set yourself up for breastfeeding success starting on day one with these ideas for planning your delivery.

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The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Both Mother and Baby

Written by Rebecca Buffum Taylor

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on July 05, 2022

In this Article

  • What is Breastfeeding?
  • Signs Your Baby is Hungry
  • Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby
  • Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother
  • Will You Make Enough Milk to Breastfeed?
  • What's the Best Position for Breastfeeding?
  • How to Get Your Baby to 'Latch on' During Breastfeeding
  • Tips for New Breastfeeding Moms
  • Are There Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding?
  • What Are Some Common Challenges With Breastfeeding?
  • Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?

What is Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is when you feed your baby breast milk, usually directly from your breast. It’s also called nursing. Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. It's also one that's likely to draw opinions from friends and family.

Many medical experts, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. After the introduction of other foods, it recommends continuing to breastfeed through the baby’s first year of life.

How often you should breastfeed your baby depends on whether your baby prefers small, frequent meals or longer feedings. This will change as your baby grows. Newborns often want to feed every 2-3 hours. By 2 months, feeding every 3-4 hours is common, and by six months, most babies feed every 4-5 hours.

You and your baby are unique, and the decision to breastfeed is up to you. 

Signs Your Baby is Hungry

One of the most common ways your baby will let you know they're hungry is to cry. Other signs your baby is ready to be fed include:

  • Licking their lips or sticking out their tongue
  • Rooting, which is moving their jaw, mouth, or head to look for your breast
  • Putting their hand in their mouth
  • Opening their mouth
  • Fussiness
  • Sucking on things

Benefits of Breastfeeding for the Baby

Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat -- everything your baby needs to grow. And it's all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers your baby's risk of having asthma or allergies. Plus, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor.

Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies. What's more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help your baby bond with you and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. The AAP says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). It's been thought to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers as well, but more research is needed.

Breastfeeding Benefits for the Mother

Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. There are continued benefits from breastfeeding beyond 1 year, and up to 2 years especially in the mother.Breastfeeding also lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower your risk of osteoporosis, too.

Since you don't have to buy and measure formula, sterilize nipples, or warm bottles, it saves you time and money. It also gives you regular time to relax quietly with your newborn as you bond. 

Will You Make Enough Milk to Breastfeed?

The first few days after birth, your breasts make an ideal "first milk." It's called colostrum. Colostrum is thick, yellowish, and there’s not a lot of it, but there's plenty to meet your baby's nutritional needs. Colostrum helps a newborn's digestive tract develop and prepare itself to digest breast milk.

Colostrum is the first phase of breast milk, which changes over time to give your baby the nutrition they need as they grow. The second phase is called transitional milk. You make this as your colostrum is gradually replaced with the third phase of breast milk, called mature milk. 

You’ll start to make transitional milk a few days after birth. By 10 to 15 days after birth, you’ll make mature milk, which gives your baby all the nutrition they need.

Most babies lose a small amount of weight in the first 3 to 5 days after birth. This is unrelated to breastfeeding.

As your baby needs more milk and nurses more, your breasts respond by making more milk. Experts recommend trying to breastfeed exclusively (no formula, juice, or water) for 6 months. If you supplement with formula, your breasts might make less milk.

Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended 6 months, it's better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. You can add solid food at 6 months but also continue to breastfeed if you want to keep producing milk.

Is your baby getting enough milk?

Many breastfeeding moms wonder whether their babies get enough milk for good nutrition. If your baby is getting enough breastmilk they should:

  • Not lose more than 7% of their birth weight in the first few days after delivery
  • Seem content for about 1-3 hours between feedings
  • Have at least 6 diapers a day wet with very pale or clear pee by the time they are 7-10 days old

What's the Best Position for Breastfeeding?

The best position for you is the one where you and your baby are both comfortable and relaxed, and you don't have to strain to hold the position or keep nursing. Here are some common positions for breastfeeding your baby:

  • Cradle position. Rest the side of your baby's head in the crook of your elbow with their whole body facing you. Position your baby's belly against your body so they feel fully supported. Your other, "free" arm can wrap around to support your baby's head and neck -- or reach through your baby's legs to support the lower back.
  • Football position. Line your baby's back along your forearm to hold your baby like a football, supporting the head and neck in your palm. This works best with newborns and small babies. It's also a good position if you're recovering from a cesarean birth and need to protect your belly from the pressure or weight of your baby.
  • Side-lying position. This position is great for night feedings in bed. Side-lying also works well if you're recovering from an episiotomy, an incision to widen the vaginal opening during delivery. Use pillows under your head to get comfortable. Then snuggle close to your baby and use your free hand to lift your breast and nipple into your baby's mouth. Once your baby is correctly "latched on," support the head and neck with your free hand so there's no twisting or straining to keep nursing.
  • Cross-cradle hold. Sit straight in a comfortable chair that has armrests. Hold your baby in the crook of your arm that's opposite the breast you will use to feed them. Support their head with your hand. Bring your baby across your body so your tummies face each other. Use your other hand to cup your breast in a U-shaped hold. Bring your baby's mouth to your breast and cradle them close, and don't lean forward.
  • Laid-back position. This position, also called biological nurturing, is a lot like it sounds. It's meant to tap into the natural breastfeeding instincts you and your baby have. Lean back, but not flat, on a couch or bed. Have good support for your head and shoulders. Hold your baby so your entire fronts touch. Let your baby take any position they're comfortable in as long as their cheek rests near your breast. Help your baby latch on if they need it.

How to Get Your Baby to 'Latch on' During Breastfeeding

Position your baby facing you, so your baby is comfortable and doesn't have to twist their neck to feed. With one hand, cup your breast and gently stroke your baby's lower lip with your nipple. Your baby's instinctive reflex will be to open the mouth wide. With your hand supporting your baby's neck, bring the mouth closer around your nipple, trying to center your nipple in the mouth above the tongue.

You'll know your baby is "latched on" correctly when both lips are pursed outward around your nipple. Your infant should have all of your nipple and most of the areola, which is the darker skin around your nipple, in their mouth. While you may feel a slight tingling or tugging, breastfeeding should not be painful. If your baby isn't latched on correctly and nursing with a smooth, comfortable rhythm, gently nudge your pinky between your baby's gums to break the suction, remove your nipple, and try again. Good "latching on" helps prevent sore nipples.

Tips for New Breastfeeding Moms

Some things help you prepare for breastfeeding: 

  • Get regular prenatal care to help you avoid preterm birth.
  • Tell your doctor you plan to breastfeed and ask what support the facility you plan to deliver in offers to help you breastfeed after birth.
  • Take a breastfeeding class.
  • Ask your doctor to connect you with a lactation consultant, who can teach you breastfeeding basics and help you if have issues.
  • Talk to your doctor about any health conditions you have or medications you take that could interfere with breastfeeding.
  • Tell your doctor and hospital health care providers that you want to breastfeed as soon as possible after delivery.
  • Talk to friends who breastfeed or join a support group for breastfeeding.
  • Stock up on the supplies you need for breastfeeding, such as nursing bras and other items.

These tips, called the ABCs of breastfeeding, will help you and your baby get comfortable with the process:

  1. Awareness. Watch for your baby's signs of hunger, and breastfeed whenever your baby is hungry. This is called "on demand" feeding. The first few weeks, you may be nursing eight to 12 times every 24 hours. Hungry infants move their hands toward their mouths, make sucking noises or mouth movements, or move toward your breast. Don't wait for your baby to cry. That's a sign their too hungry.
  2. Be patient. Breastfeed as long as your baby wants to nurse each time. Don't hurry your infant through feedings. Infants typically breastfeed for 10 to 20 minutes on each breast.
  3. Comfort. This is key. Relax while breastfeeding, and your milk is more likely to "let down" and flow. Get yourself comfortable with pillows as needed to support your arms, head, and neck, and a footrest to support your feet and legs before you begin to breastfeed.

Are There Medical Considerations With Breastfeeding?

In a few situations, breastfeeding could cause a baby harm. Here are some reasons you should not breastfeed:

  • You are HIV positive. You can pass the HIV virus to your infant through breast milk.
  • You have active, untreated tuberculosis.
  • You're receiving chemotherapy for cancer.
  • You're using an illegal drug, such as cocaine or marijuana.
  • Your baby has a rare condition called galactosemia and cannot tolerate the natural sugar, called galactose, in breast milk.
  • You're taking certain prescription medications, such as some drugs for migraine headaches, Parkinson's disease, or arthritis.

Talk with your doctor before starting to breastfeed if you're taking prescription drugs of any kind. Your doctor can help you make an informed decision based on your particular medication.

Having a cold or flu should not prevent you from breastfeeding. Breast milk won't give your baby the illness and may even give antibodies to your baby to help fight off the illness.

Also, the AAP suggests that -- starting at 4 months of age -- exclusively breastfed infants, and infants who are partially breastfed and receive more than half of their daily feedings as human milk, should be supplemented with oral iron. This should continue until foods with iron, such as iron-fortified cereals, are introduced in the diet. The AAP recommends checking iron levels in all children at age 1.

Discuss supplementation of both iron and vitamin D with your pediatrician. Your doctor can guide you on recommendations about the proper amounts for both your baby and you, when to start, and how often the supplements should be taken.

What Are Some Common Challenges With Breastfeeding?

  • Sore nipples. You can expect some soreness in the first weeks of breastfeeding. Make sure your baby latches on correctly, and use one finger to break the suction of your baby's mouth after each feeding. That will help prevent sore nipples. If you still get sore, be sure you nurse with each breast fully enough to empty the milk ducts. If you don't, your breasts can become engorged, swollen, and painful. Holding ice or a bag of frozen peas against sore nipples can temporarily ease discomfort. Keeping your nipples dry and letting them "air dry" between feedings helps, too. Your baby tends to suck more actively at the start. So begin feedings with the less-sore nipple.
  • Dry, cracked nipples. Avoid soaps, perfumed creams, or lotions with alcohol in them, which can make nipples even more dry and cracked. You can gently apply pure lanolin to your nipples after a feeding, but be sure you gently wash the lanolin off before breastfeeding again. Changing your bra pads often will help your nipples stay dry. And you should use only cotton bra pads.
  • Worries about producing enough milk. A general rule of thumb is that a baby who's wetting six to eight diapers a day is most likely getting enough milk. It's best not to supplement your breast milk with formula, and never give your infant plain water. Your body needs the frequent, regular demand of your baby's nursing to keep producing milk. Some women mistakenly think they can't breastfeed if they have small breasts. But small-breasted women can make milk just as well as large-breasted women. Good nutrition, plenty of rest, and staying well hydrated all help, too.
  • Pumping and storing milk. You can get breast milk by hand or pump it with a breast pump. It may take a few days or weeks for your baby to get used to breast milk in a bottle. So begin practicing early if you're going back to work. Breast milk can be safely used within 2 days if it's stored in a refrigerator. You can freeze breast milk for up to 6 months. Don't warm up or thaw frozen breast milk in a microwave. That will destroy some of its immune-boosting qualities, and it can cause fatty portions of the breast milk to become super hot. Thaw breast milk in the refrigerator or in a bowl of warm water instead.
  • Inverted nipples. An inverted nipple doesn't poke forward when you pinch the areola, the dark skin around the nipple. A lactation consultant -- a specialist in breastfeeding education -- can give you tips that allow women with inverted nipples to breastfeed successfully.
  • Breast engorgement. Breast fullness is natural and healthy. It happens as your breasts become full of milk, staying soft and pliable. But breast engorgement means the blood vessels in your breast have become congested. This traps fluid in your breasts and makes them feel hard, painful, and swollen. Alternate heat and cold, for instance using ice packs and hot showers, to relieve mild symptoms. It can also help to release your milk by hand or use a breast pump.
  • Blocked ducts. A single sore spot on your breast, which may be red and hot, can signal a plugged milk duct. This can often be relieved by warm compresses and gentle massage over the area to release the blockage. More frequent nursing can also help.
  • Breast infection (mastitis). This occasionally results when bacteria enter the breast, often through a cracked nipple after breastfeeding. If you have a sore area on your breast along with flu-like symptoms, fever, and fatigue, call your doctor. Antibiotics are usually needed to clear up a breast infection, but you can most likely continue to breastfeed while you have the infection and take antibiotics. To relieve breast tenderness, apply moist heat to the sore area four times a day for 15 to 20 minutes each time.
  • Stress. Being overly anxious or stressed can interfere with your let-down reflex. That's your body's natural release of milk into the milk ducts. It's triggered by hormones released when your baby nurses. It can also be triggered just by hearing your baby cry or thinking about your baby. Stay as relaxed and calm as possible before and during nursing -- it can help your milk let down and flow more easily. That, in turn, can help calm and relax your infant.
  • Premature babies may not be able to breastfeed right away. In some cases, mothers can release breast milk and feed it through a bottle or feeding tube.
  • Warning signs. Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy process. But call your doctor if:
    • Your breasts become unusually red, swollen, hard, or sore.
    • You have an unusual discharge or bleeding from your nipples.
    • You're concerned your baby isn't gaining weight or getting enough milk.

Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?

Images of mothers breastfeeding their babies make it look simple -- but some women need some help and coaching. It can come from a nurse, doctor, family member, or friend, and it helps mothers get over possible bumps in the road.

Reach out to friends, family, and your doctor with any questions you may have. Most likely, the women in your life have had those same questions.

Is it worth it to breastfeed children up to five years of age or even longer?

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Image copyright Getty Images

Should you breastfeed your children until the age of five or even longer?

29-year-old Englishwoman Emma Shardlow Hudson, who breastfeeds her five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son, sometimes at the same time, says it is good for their health and that they very rarely get sick due to "the presence of antibodies in milk. "

The UK National Health System advises mothers to breastfeed their babies for as long as they both want to.

Women are generally advised to continue breastfeeding for only the first six months, and then gradually add solid foods to the baby's diet.

  • Model breastfeeding photo sparks heated debate
  • Politician breastfeeds her baby for the first time in the Australian Parliament
  • Pregnancy and childbirth in Britain: free and without a doctor

British breastfeeding

In the UK, about 80% of mothers follow the advice to breastfeed their newborns after birth, but many stop doing so after a few weeks.

Only about a third of six-month-old babies are still getting their mother's milk, and by the first year of their life this figure drops to 0. 5%.

According to a 2016 international survey, the UK has one of the world's lowest rates of breastfeeding women.

Experts say that many women simply find it difficult to start breastfeeding and often don't get the practical help they need in the first days after giving birth and with their first child when they're not yet breastfeeding.

In addition, many women feel uncomfortable doing this in public places and stop breastfeeding, switching to artificial feeding.

Is there anything better than breasts?

Experts agree that breastfeeding is good for the health of both the baby and the mother.

Breast milk protects the infant from infections, diarrhea and vomiting, and reduces the risk of obesity in adulthood.

For mothers, breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer in the future.

All this is good, but still - until what age should a child be breastfed?

At the moment there is not enough scientific evidence to answer this question unambiguously, so only general recommendations are offered to women.

"It is ideal to breastfeed your baby, along with other foods, until at least the start of the second year," says the UK National Health System website.

Image copyright, Getty Images

Image caption,

After the first six months, solid foods other than milk can be gradually introduced to the baby

The World Health Organization believes that breastfeeding should continue at least until the baby is two of the year.

However, Dr. Max Davey of the British Royal Institute of Pediatrics and Child Health believes that there should be a limit to everything, and that breastfeeding should not be continued when it no longer provides any benefits.

"By the age of two, a child should be getting all the nutrients it needs from a normal diet, after that age, there is no additional health benefit from mother's milk," he says.

"It doesn't hurt anything"

Many factors influence a woman's decision to continue or stop breastfeeding. Much depends on whether the new mother returns to work, whether her friends and relatives support her, and how comfortable she feels with breastfeeding.

Also remember that breastfeeding often helps develop the emotional bond between mother and child.

"Breastfeeding is a very personal thing," says Dr. Davey.

"This can strengthen the relationship between mother and child, and in any case it will not cause harm, so people should do as they see fit."

Image copyright, Getty Images

But don't forget that some women find it physically difficult, if not impossible, to breastfeed, while others choose not to, for a variety of reasons, and experts say it's their choice. and should be treated with respect.

In a Kemerovo cafe, a woman was driven out to feed her baby in the toilet - Gazeta.ru

In a Kemerovo cafe, a woman was kicked out to feed her baby in the toilet - Gazeta.Ru | News



In Kemerovo, a visitor was forbidden to breastfeed in a cafe. About this reports NGS42.RU.

A girl came to a cafe with a friend and a baby. The woman decided to breastfeed the baby. According to her, she covered herself so that nothing could be seen.

“I always try not to see anything. As soon as the baby began to eat, the administrator approached me and said: “We do not allow breastfeeding in the hall, so please go to the toilet.” It was strange to hear this, since we came on Tuesday, it was the middle of the working day and there were no other visitors in the cafe, ”the girl told the publication.

According to the Russian woman, there was no “mother and child room” in the cafe, and there was only one toilet for men and women.

“It turned out that there is only one restroom in the cafe - for both men and women. While I was feeding, the toilet handle was twitching endlessly - the visitors did not understand why it was busy for so long, ”the girl admitted to the publication.

The visitor checked the cafe regulations. The rules of the establishment did state that it was forbidden to breastfeed in the premises. However, customers with animals were allowed in the cafe.

“It is allowed to come to this cafe with dogs, they even put a bowl of water at the entrance. I love animals, but they can be carriers of various diseases, and yet they walk around the institution without any problems, while feeding a child there is fu, ”the girl was indignant.

Previously reported that a transgender mother was criticized for feeding her child with fake breasts.

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