Benefits of breast feeding
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The experience of breastfeeding is special for
so many reasons – the joyful bonding with your baby, the cost savings, and the
health benefits for both mother and baby. Read on for tips and suggestions to
help you successfully breastfeed.
Breastfeeding protects babies
- Early breast milk is liquid gold
– Known as liquid gold, colostrum (coh-LOSS-trum) is the thick yellow first
breast milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk
is very rich in
to protect your baby. Although your baby only gets a small amount of
colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her tiny stomach can
How to know your baby is getting enough milk to see just how small your
newborn’s tummy is!)
- Your breast milk changes as your
baby grows – Colostrum changes into what is called mature milk. By
the third to fifth day after birth, this mature breast milk has just the
right amount of fat, sugar, water, and
to help your baby continue to grow. It is a thinner type of milk than
colostrum, but it provides all of the nutrients and antibodies your baby
- Breast milk is easier to digest
– For most babies — especially
babies — breast milk is easier to digest than formula. The proteins in
formula are made from cow’s milk and it takes time for babies’ stomachs to
adjust to digesting them.
- Breast milk fights disease
– The cells,
and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness. This protection
is unique; formula cannot match the chemical makeup of human breast milk. In
fact, among formula-fed babies, ear infections and diarrhea are more common.
Formula-fed babies also have higher risks of:
Some research shows that
can also reduce the risk of Type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and atopic
dermatitis (a type of skin rash) in babies. Breastfeeding has also been
shown to lower the risk of
infant death syndrome).
- Necrotizing (nek-roh-TEYE-zing)
enterocolitis (en-TUR-oh-coh-lyt-iss), a disease that affects the
gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants.
- Lower respiratory infections
- Type 2
Mothers benefit from breastfeeding
- Life can be easier when you
breastfeed – Breastfeeding may take a little more effort than
formula feeding at first. But it can make life easier once you and your baby
settle into a good routine. Plus, when you breastfeed, there are no bottles
and nipples to sterilize. You do not have to buy, measure, and mix formula.
And there are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night! You can satisfy
your baby’s hunger right away when breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding can save money
– Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year,
depending on how much your baby eats. Breastfed babies are also sick less
often, which can lower health care costs.
- Breastfeeding can feel great
– Physical contact is important to newborns. It can help them feel more
secure, warm, and comforted. Mothers can benefit from this closeness, as
well. Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time to
bond. The skin-to-skin contact can boost the mother’s oxytocin (OKS-ee-TOH-suhn)
levels. Oxytocin is a
that helps milk flow and can calm the mother.
- Breastfeeding can be good for the
mother’s health, too – Breastfeeding is linked to a lower risk of
these health problems in women:
Experts are still looking at the effects of
breastfeeding on osteoporosis and weight loss after birth. Many studies have
reported greater weight loss for breastfeeding mothers than for those who
don’t. But more research is needed to understand if a strong link exists.
- Type 2
- Ovarian cancer
- Mothers miss less work –
Breastfeeding mothers miss fewer days from work because their infants are
sick less often.
Breastfeeding benefits society
The nation benefits overall when mothers
breastfeed. Recent research shows that if 90 percent of families breastfed
exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented.
The United States would also save $13 billion per year — medical care costs are
lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed
infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and
Breastfeeding also contributes to a more
productive workforce since mothers miss less work to care for sick infants.
Employer medical costs are also lower.
Breastfeeding is also better for the
environment. There is less trash and plastic waste compared to that produced by
formula cans and bottle supplies.
Breastfeeding during an emergency
When an emergency occurs, breastfeeding can save
- Breastfeeding protects babies from the
risks of a contaminated water supply.
- Breastfeeding can help protect against
respiratory illnesses and
These diseases can be fatal in populations displaced by disaster.
- Breast milk is the right temperature for
babies and helps to prevent hypothermia, when the body temperature drops too
- Breast milk is readily available without
needing other supplies.
More information on why breastfeeding is
Read more from womenshealth.gov
Your Guide to Breastfeeding — This easy-to-read publication provides
women the how-to information and support needed to breastfeed successfully.
It explains why breastfeeding is best for baby, mom, and society and how
loved ones can support a mother's decision to breastfeed. Expert tips and
illustrations help new moms learn how to breastfeed comfortably and how to
overcome common challenges.
When should a baby start eating solid foods
such as cereals, vegetables, and fruits?
Breast milk alone is sufficient to support
optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months after birth.
For these very young infants, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states
that water, juice, and other foods are generally unnecessary. Even when babies
enjoy discovering new tastes and textures, solid foods should not replace
breastfeeding, but merely complement breast milk as the infant's main source of
nutrients throughout the first year. Beyond one year, as the variety and volume
of solid foods gradually increase, breast milk remains an ideal addition to the
For additional breastfeeding recommendations, visit the American Academy of
Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk
How long should a mother breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter
for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends
continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
What can happen if someone else's breast milk
is given to another child?
HIV and other serious infectious diseases can be
transmitted through breast milk. However, the risk of infection from a single
bottle of breast milk, even if the mother is HIV positive, is extremely small.
For women who do not have HIV or other serious infectious diseases, there is
little risk to the child who receives her breast milk.
Are special precautions needed for handling breast
CDC does not list human breast milk as a body
fluid for which most healthcare personnel should use special handling
precautions. Occupational exposure to human breast milk has not been shown to
lead to transmission of HIV or HBV infection. However, because human breast milk
has been implicated in transmitting HIV from mother to infant, gloves may be
worn as a precaution by health care workers who are frequently exposed to breast
milk (e.g., persons working in human milk banks).
Should mothers who smoke breastfeed?
Mothers who smoke are encouraged to quit,
however, breast milk remains the ideal food for a baby even if the mother
smokes. Although nicotine may be present in breast milk, adverse effects on the
infant during breastfeeding have not been reported. AAP recognizes pregnancy and
lactation as two ideal times to promote smoking cessation, but does not indicate
that mothers who smoke should not breastfeed.
Where can I find answers to my other questions
To find additional resources on breastfeeding: