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Breastfeeding for the longer term

So you’ve got to about 3 months of feeding your baby. You’ve survived those growth spurts, that cluster feeding and the pain of the shredded nipple seems to have corrected itself too. Breastfeeding is feeling more comfortable and youre feeling easier about it. Your baby is gaining weight and youre able to multi-task like a pro... answered the door with your baby attached to your breast yet?! 

Perhaps you want to carry on for longer, but are worried about returning to work or how it fits in with starting on solids.   

Getting messy!  

The World Health Organisation recognises the importance of breastfeeding and the massive benefits it provides so they recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. After then, you’ll be thinking about introducing solid foods, so they recommend continuing with breastfeeding for as long as you wish.  

We recommend starting solid foods at six months as your baby is developmentally ready to take new foods into their diet. They may have better hand to eye co-ordination and will be able to start sitting up without all those cushions behind them! This means theyll be able to put food into their mouths by themselves, exploring the different tastes and textures.  

Their digestive system is also fully developed around this time and so its the best time to introduce food to their diet. But breastmilk is still their most important food and provides most of your baby’s calories as well as fluid. 

The easiest way to begin is to continue your usual pattern of breastfeeding and let your baby join you at mealtimes. The idea is not to replace milk. In fact, if your baby is too hungry, they may refuse solids, so a good time to try solid food is when they are content after a breastfeed. 

Bye-bye maternity leave… 

If you’re planning to return to work, the earlier you start thinking about it, the better plan you can put in place to feel like youre totally rocking this working mother role!  

A lot of mums are thinking about returning to their job, or starting a new job around 9-12 months and so think they won’t be able to continue to breastfeed. When your baby is fully introduced to solids and having about 3 meals a day, their requirement for breastfeeds will reduce. Most of their nutrition comes from food at this stage.  

So you should be able to go off to work with a lovely feed in the morning, a feed when you come home and an end of the day feed just before bed. Your baby may want more at times - remember they can feed for comfort and reassurance rather than simply nutrition.  

You have the power on your side to ask your employer for a private room (NOT a toilet) and storage if you want to be able to express via pumping. This is your right as a breastfeeding mother.  

Lots of positives  

Every feed you manage provides so many wonderful properties in your breastmilk to protect both you and your baby from illnesses and lifelong conditions, and the longer you breastfeed, the longer you continue to provide that protection and comfort. It's powerful stuff! 

Did you know for example that breastfeeding:  

  • Can protect your baby from chest, gastric, ear and urinary infections 
  • Reduces the risk of diabetes and obesity 
  • Decreases allergies and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) 
  • Can decrease your baby’s likelihood of having childhood cancers or heart disease later in life 

And for you: 

  • It reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer 
  • It reduces the impact of osteoporosis 

Breastfeeding also helps our environment. You don’t need to recycle anything and you don’t leave a carbon footprint either. You don’t use electricity to make or warm up a feed as it’s there 24/7 at the perfect temperature.  

And it doesn’t stop there, it also benefits your family as it saves you money and time. You can feel free to go out and about with your family (once we are able to!), as it’s a much more convenient way to feed your baby….anywhere, anytime and anyplace! Again - its your right.  

If you ever feel that people are questioning your decision to feed in the longer term, just remember all these positives, and try not to listen to any judgement. Only you know what’s best for you and your baby. 

Whatever your plans are and however long you intend to breastfeed for, just value every single drop of breastmilk you provide your baby with. You are providing excellent building blocks for a good start in life. Celebrate your super power!! 

If you have any questions, you can send them anonymously using this form and we’ll post the answers to our Facebook page  on Fridays - look out for #CYPFChats

There's more information on breastfeeding on our support and advice pages. If you are struggling with breastfeeding or another issue with your baby and need support, please contact your health visitor, or get in touch via our health visitor duty lines from 9.30am-4.30pm

Bracknell: 0300 365 6000 or email
Wokingham: 0300 365 7000 or email:
Reading: 0118 931 2111 or email
West Berkshire: 0300 303 3944 or email:   

About the author

Kirstie is the Professional Development Lead Health Visiting and Infant Feeding Lead for Berkshire Healthcare