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Common breastfeeding concerns: How long should I breastfeed my baby?

Breastmilk is all the food and drink your baby needs for around the first 6 months of age. Breastmilk also gives your baby extra nutrients up to 12 months and older. How long to continue breastfeeding is a personal decision for each family to make. The World Health Organization and the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia recommend exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. no other fluids or solids) for six months and then continued breastfeeding combined with solid foods for 12-24 months or as long as mother and baby desire. Here are some tips to help you to keep breastfeeding.

Remember...

  • Your baby does not need complementary or first foods until he or she is around 6 months of age.
  • It is good for baby to keep breastfeeding even after you start giving first foods.
  • You can keep breastfeeding your baby for as long as you and your baby want.
  • Wean your baby slowly when you want to stop breastfeeding.

Low supply

It is common for mothers to think they are not making enough milk. However, your milk supply is suited to your baby’s needs if you are feeding on demand. The more you feed, the more milk you will make. Your baby will not feed from you as often if he or she is often sucking on a dummy or bottle. This means your body may make less milk. Try to limit how often you give your baby a dummy or bottle.

Read the Is my baby getting enough milk? fact sheet for more information.

Teeth

Teeth may make feeding feel different at first but should not be painful. Your baby might bite when he or she is getting used to their new teeth. If your baby bites, try removing your baby from the breast. You can return them when they are ready to feed. Your baby will learn not to bite at feeding time.

Distractions

Your baby is becoming interested in the world around them as they get older. You might find that he or she often stops feeding to look around. You may find it helpful to feed in a quiet room so the baby will be less distracted.

Baby refusing breast

Babies can sometimes refuse the breast. This is often temporary. There are many reasons why a baby might refuse the breast, including:

  • baby-related (e.g. a cold, distractions, or teething)
  • mother-related (e.g. hormonal changes, medications, or change in perfume).

It is helpful to try to find out what is causing your baby to refuse the breast. This will help you to fix the problem. Contact an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor, lactation consultant or breastfeeding-trained professional for help if baby keeps refusing.

Return of menstrual cycle

When your menstrual cycle starts again your baby may be a bit fussier with feeding. This can be normal and will pass after the first few days.

Weaning

Weaning starts when your baby begins having any food or drink that is not breastmilk. Here are some tips that can help you if you have chosen to start weaning your baby:

  • Wean gradually over weeks or months. This will depend on your comfort and your baby's acceptance./li>
  • Start by swapping the feed your baby is the least interested in. Be led by your baby.
  • Swap missed feeds with infant formula if your baby is not yet 6 months. You can start giving your baby complementary foods or water if he or she is older. Check the Introducing complementary foods: Feeding from around 6 months fact sheet for what foods you can give your baby.
  • You can wean from the breast to a cup or a bottle.
  • Try not to express milk if your breasts become engorged (full and painful). This could increase your milk supply. You can try to express just a little milk for comfort and to reduce the risk of mastitis.

For assistance

Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and ask to speak to a child health nurse for 24-hour child health information and advice.

Contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association:

Find a lactation consultant:

Resources for parents, families and carers

Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Government

Growing Strong—Breastfeeding: good for Baby, good for Mum (PDF, 637kB), Queensland Government

Healthdirect Australia—Breastfeeding, Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Newborns nutrition, Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Breastfeeding videos, Australian Government

Booklet: Breastfeeding and postnatal care, New South Wales Government —available in English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi and Tamil languages

Booklet: Breastfeeding your baby (PDF 3.6MB), New South Wales Government

Brochure: Breastfeeding tips for new mothers (PDF, 110kB), New South Wales Government

Breastfeeding, Better Health Channel, Victoria Government

Brochure: Breastfeeding (PDF, 1.3MB), Victoria Government

Breastfeeding, South Australia Government

Related content

The importance of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding if you are away from your baby

Breastfeeding a sleepy or unsettled baby

Acknowledgements

This fact sheet is consistent with the National breastfeeding strategy 2010–2015.

Information is drawn from:

  • Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service 2015, Child health information: Your guide to the first 12 months.
  • National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines.
  • Preventative Health 2008, Growing Strong: Feeding you and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Preventative Health 2010, Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Queensland Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guidelines Program, 2010, Breastfeeding initiation.

This fact sheet is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.

This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.