Advantages of Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is the best food for most babies. It contains all the nutrients a baby needs for healthy growth and development during the first six months of life and helps protect a baby from many illnesses. Breastfeeding also provides many health benefits for mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a baby be exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Babies who are breastfed for less time also experience many health benefits.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the baby include:
  • Breastfed babies are less likely than formula-fed babies to have ear infections, allergies, lower respiratory infections (such as pneumonia), urinary tract infections, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Breastfeeding may enhance brain development.
  • Breastmilk is easy for a baby to digest, so a baby may have less gas, colic, and spitting up.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the mother include:
  • Breastfeeding helps the mother's uterus heal more quickly.
  • Breastfeeding helps the mother lose her extra pregnancy weight.
  • Breastfeeding may help reduce a woman’s risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer before menopause.

Breastfeeding is recommended for the vast majority of women. However, there are a few exceptions. Some mothers have medical conditions that prevent them from breastfeeding. Women with HIV/AIDS should not breastfeed because there is a risk of passing the virus to their babies. Women who have had breast surgery or are taking medications for chronic health conditions such as asthma or high blood pressure should discuss breastfeeding with their health care providers. And some babies may have conditions, like cleft palate or poor sucking reflex, that can make it difficult for them to breastfeed. In circumstances such as these, it’s a good idea to talk to your health care provider, pediatric health care provider, or a lactation consultant about breastfeeding your baby.

Continue to "Prenatal Care Visits During the Second Trimester" journey to parenthood

Most recent page update: 9/9/2010

© 2016 National Partnership for Women & Families. All rights reserved.

Founded in 1918, Childbirth Connection has joined forces with and become a core program of the National Partnership for Women & Families. Together, these two women's health powerhouses are transforming maternity care in the United States.
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