So you’ve reached the 6 months breastfeeding mark. Hooray! It was probably challenging at times but mostly you have loved every minute. So what now?
You have probably heard, since pregnancy, that it’s recommended to feed babies breastmilk for 6 months. Now you have reached that milestone you may be wondering why it’s still a good idea to keep breastfeeding.
Here are some reasons why it’s a great idea to keep breastfeeding after 6 months…
Breastfeeding After 6 Months Helps Baby Digest the New Solid Foods in Their Diet
You have probably started or are planning to introduce solid foods now. You may want to read our blog “Baby Led Weaning – Letting Your Infant Self-Feed” to help you with some ideas. Even though baby is starting solid foods from around 6 months it is unlikely that the amount of breastfeeds baby needs will drop significantly just yet, they need breastmilk as their main component of their diet until 12 months.
Most babies are still breastfeeding 6-8 times per day but may start to take slightly less milk at each feed from now on. By continuing to breastfeed alongside the introduction of foods not only ensures good nutrition but breast milk helps with the digestion of those other foods.
While Breastfeeding, Baby is More Likely to Eat a Range of Flavoured Foods
You will find that, if you have kept breastmilk in your baby’s diet until now, baby will probably be more likely to eat a range of foods. Breastmilk is able to change in flavour, allowing your baby to have a wide variety of tastes from what you have been eating, making the introductions of foods easier for many mums!
During this phase of first introducing solids keep a closer eye on your baby’s nappies! Sometimes too many solids and not enough breastfeeds can lead to constipation. If you are noticing smaller more pellet like stools in their nappy it is a good idea to increase your breast milk feeds again.
Breastfeeding Helps Baby with Teething
As the next few months go on you may find that your baby becomes uninterested in breastfeeds on occasion. This can often be mistaken for weaning, but it is very unusual for babies to self-wean before 12 months. Even if baby is consistently avoiding the breast it is likely not a permanent switch.
Keep following your baby’s cues and you will likely find that baby goes back to the breast again. You may want to maintain your milk supply with some expressing, but it is usual that your milk will increase again easily, shortly after your baby starts feeding again.
During these teething phases your baby may want nothing other than to breastfeed and forgo solids for a few days or weeks as this can be extremely soothing and a great pain reliever for baby when new teeth are popping through.
Don’t worry, there may be a few big changes during these next few months! Usually as quickly as baby started back with frequent breastfeeds they want to eat solid foods again.
The best thing to do is follow your baby’s cues and go with the flow as much as possible! Baby will tell you what they need, as I’m sure you know that by now!
Breastfeeding Also Provides Ongoing Protection
During the months 6 -12 and beyond you’ve probably already realised that babies are much more active and will try to put everything in their mouth! Your breastmilk is still jam packed with protection and antibodies, even after 6 months. And I’m sure you can imagine why they need this!
Our bodies are super clever and have made it possible for our babies to safely explore their surroundings with all their senses, yet still be protected whilst they grow and taste almost everything!
Some fascinating research showed that in a baby’s second year (12-23 months) 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
So you can see there are significant health benefits to both baby and you for continued breastfeeding way beyond 6 months and even further than 12 months. Most of those benefits will last a lifetime.
Because it Feels Wonderful
Last but no means least it is recommended that you continue breastfeeding because it feels so wonderful for both mum and baby. By 6 months, most mums say that they absolutely love breastfeeding and it gives them such wonderful “feel-good” feelings.
Many mums say they feel sad at the thought of stopping. Well, there is no need to stop until either of you are ready. The longer you provide breastmilk and nurturing through feeding the better the long term health benefits for you and your baby. Enjoy it.
Nurture and love your baby through breastfeeding for as long as you both feel you want to. Every breastfeed you give your baby is valuable in every way.
So as you can see there are many reasons to keep breastfeeding beyond the first 6 months and these are only a few. Enjoy your breastfeeding time with your baby and be confident that you are doing the best for both of you.
Have you breastfed beyond 6 months? How long did you breastfeed for? What were some of the challenges and benefits for you and your baby? Join the conversation at our Medela Australia Facebook page