Today most women breast feed because there are numerous benefits for both mother and baby. The colostrum the baby gets with feeding before milk comes in is rich in antibodies and supports immunity. For mom, the oxytocin contracts the uterus and the prolactin promotes the mother’s sense of well being and promotes the milk let-down. And then there’s the bonding for both mother and baby.
At birth, the baby only needs to have its mother’s colostrum. If a baby hasn’t learned to latch on at birth, it is very important for mom and baby to learn how to accomplish this. Place the baby’s lower lip on the lower part of the areola and nipple at the baby’s lips. Sucking is a very basic instinct. Babies like to suck on everything, including their toes.
A baby should double its weight in 6 months and triple it at one year. So an 8-lb baby should weigh 16 pounds at 6 months and 24 pounds at a year. How long you choose to breast feed your child is up to you. Breast feeding is very personal and flexible. My grandparents talked about a child in their community who breast fed until he started first grade. I had a friend who breast fed on only one breast for three years. The child would ask for breast milk. There are no set rules for how long to breast feed. You and your child decide.