Sunday, April 30, 2023

World Breastfeeding Week.. The ideal duration of breastfeeding

The importance of breast milk:

Because of its unique composition, breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It ensures optimal growth and development, as well as protection against certain diseases. But how long does it take to breastfeed to get these benefits? To what age does breast milk meet the child's nutritional needs?

Mother's milk: Baby milk:

Breast milk is well suited to the needs of the infant in terms of quality and quantity. It is unique in that it is dynamic: its composition changes over the days, weeks, up to the day and during the feeding itself, to provide the baby with all the nutrients and other substances he needs for his growth and health. The composition of breast milk also adjusts depending on the term of the baby. Thus, in the event of a premature birth, breast milk will be richer in proteins and essential fatty acids, which are essential for the brain development of a premature baby.

Breastfeeding on demand:

According to the law of supply and demand (the more the baby sucks, the more the breast is stimulated and the more milk it produces), the amount of milk produced also adjusts to the needs of the baby. As long as she nurses on demand, the mother will always be able to provide her baby with enough milk - except for certain medical conditions.


Colostrum is the thick, yellowish fluid that is secreted in small amounts from the breasts in the first few days after birth, before the milk flow. This colostrum has a unique formula, perfectly adapted to the specific needs of newborns. It is particularly rich in:
  • Antibodies (IgA) and white blood cells, which help the newborn protect itself from infection.
  • Mineral salts, which have the peculiarity of retaining water in the body of a newborn, thus limiting weight loss in the first days after birth.
  • Hormones and enzymes that aid digestion and promote the emptying of meconium (baby's first stool).

Factors that promote the formation of intestinal flora:

Breast milk contains many biologically active substances, such as:
  • Cells (white blood cells, stem cells, etc.) that strengthen the immune system.
  • Specific proteins are essential for a child's maturation.
  • Bioactive carbohydrates (oligosaccharides), which promote brain development, intestinal flora, and the immune system.
  • Growth factors (insulin-like growth factor-1, transforming growth factor, leukocyte growth factors, epidermal growth factor).
  • Cytokines (anti-inflammatory molecules).
  • Long-chain fatty acids, essential for a child's brain maturation.

Benefits for the child and the mother:

Breastfeeding is one of the first factors in protecting a child's health in the long term. ”, indicates INPES in its guide to breastfeeding. Thanks to its unique and irreplaceable composition, breast milk offers multiple benefits and protection: better digestion, protection against infections, especially of the gastrointestinal tract, nose and throat, and protection against obesity. This protective effect is most pronounced when Breastfeeding is exclusive and prolonged.

Breastfeeding also has benefits for the mother: uterine retroversion (a process that allows the uterus to regain its initial size and position) faster thanks to lactation hormones that bring out the ditches (contractions after childbirth), and relative protection against breast and ovarian cancer. Again, the longer you breastfeed, the greater this protection.

The ideal duration of breastfeeding:

Because of the unique composition of breast milk and all its benefits, WHO and French health authorities recommend exclusive breastfeeding for up to 6 months. Up to this age, breast milk covers all the nutritional needs of a baby, without any other food or drink (not even water, even during a heat wave). It contains all the vitamins, minerals, trace elements, sugars, fats and proteins a child needs to grow well, all in the right amounts.

How to supplement breast milk from the age of 6 months?

After 6 months, the milk is no longer sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the infant. It is therefore recommended to introduce other solid foods by 6 months of age, in addition to breast milk. This is the recommended age to start the diversification. However, milk (breast or formula) remains the main food for babies until they are one year old.

Breastfeeding after two years:

After two years, it is of course possible to continue breastfeeding your baby. This prolonged breastfeeding does not in any way threaten his health or development. It allows the baby to enjoy the nutritional benefits of breast milk, and to have close contact with its mother. For example, mothers breastfeed until they are 3 or 4 years old or even older. Often, the baby will naturally detach from the breast, and weaning is gentle.

Even for a shorter or partial period, breastfeeding is still beneficial for the baby. However, there must be a choice and a moment of pleasure for the mother as well, who should under no circumstances "force herself" to breastfeed her child to follow these recommendations. Listening to yourself is essential.

Breastfeeding and returning to work:

Returning to work after maternity leave clearly raises the issue of continuing - or stopping - breastfeeding. With a little organization, it is entirely possible to continue to breastfeed your baby after you return to work.

There are two possible ways to breastfeed:

Exclusive breastfeeding:

Once he is in the presence of his mother, he will hold the baby. In the place of his care, he drinks the mother's milk, which the mother used to withdraw and store before according to the rules of keeping. It is advisable, to be calmer, to start building up a supply of milk a few weeks before resuming labor, by expressing milk once or several times a day.

Partial breastfeeding:

When the baby is with his mother (in the morning, in the evening, on weekends), he takes the breast. In his nursery, he takes baby bottles of infant formula. Depending on the age of the child, diversification may make up for some meals when the mother is away.

It is quite possible to maintain lactation through partial breastfeeding, especially with the mother present, as the baby will often compensate for it by feeding more. These "morning and evening feedings" also have the benefit of easing separation from the baby, which can be difficult when returning to work.