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Breastfeeding Beyond the Basics

Jean Godwin, a lawyer in Washington, DC, returned to work when her baby was 10 weeks old. Now, two months later, she's trying to find the time to pump breast milk at the office¿ -- and wondering how much longer she can keep nursing. Elizabeth Fish, of Menlo Park, CA, stays home with her 3-month-old son. Between taking care of him and her two other children, and trying to renovate their house, she's so tired she doubts she can continue to breastfeed.

The pressures felt by Godwin and Fish show why nursing women often end up weaning their infants earlier than they'd expected. In fact, two-thirds of American women who breastfeed (and only 59 percent attempt it) quit before their babies are 6 months old. This despite the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) that infants be exclusively nursed for the first six months, then continue to receive breast milk along with other iron-enriched solid foods, at least until their first birthday.

If you choose to breastfeed, how can you do it successfully for that ideal first year or for as many months as you'd like? Getting past the initial challenges of learning to nurse is the most important step. But new obstacles may crop up as your baby grows. Some strategies for dealing with the biggest hurdles:

Dia L. Michels is the coauthor of Milk, Money, and Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding.