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Breast-Feeding Benefits

Breast-feeding offers many advantages to both babies and mothers. You should know the benefits of breast-feeding before you decide about how to feed your baby.

How does my baby benefit from breast-feeding?

  • A mother's breast milk is the perfect food for babies.

    Human milk is the perfect food to help your baby's body and brain grow and develop. No formula can be made exactly the same as human milk. There are thousands of ingredients in human milk, and not all of them have been identified.

    Babies can digest breast milk easily. A diet of breast milk produces loose bowel movements that a baby can easily pass. Constipation is rare in breast-fed infants.

    The only food your baby needs for about 6 months is breast milk. After you start feeding your baby solid foods, it helps if you continue breast-feeding until your child is a year old or even older.

  • Breast-feeding protects your baby from sickness.

    Breast-feeding helps protect your baby from illnesses including diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, and serious illnesses. Breast-feeding improves your baby's chances of staying healthy. Breast-fed babies also have a much lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

  • Nursing comforts your baby and helps him feel secure.

    You and your baby give comfort to each other. Your baby regularly needs your breast milk and physical closeness, and your full breasts regularly need to be drained. Breast-feeding helps deepen the bond between you and your baby.

  • Breast-fed babies may have fewer allergies.

    Your baby may be less likely to have skin problems and asthma than babies who are fed formula.

  • Breast-feeding reduces the chance that your child will be overweight.

    Breast-feeding, especially for longer than 6 months, reduces the chance that your child will be overweight later in life.

How do I benefit from breast-feeding?

  • Breast-feeding helps your uterus shrink after delivery.

    Nursing causes your body to release a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps your uterus return to its normal size after delivery.

  • Breast-feeding can help you lose weight.

    Breast-feeding uses up calories and usually helps mothers lose some of the extra weight they gained during pregnancy.

  • Breast-feeding is very convenient.

    No matter where you are, the perfect food is ready for your baby. It is at the right temperature and in the correct amount. You can take your baby with you anywhere, knowing that you can feed him whenever he is hungry.

  • Breast-feeding can work as birth control during the first 6 months after delivery.

    Breast-feeding helps prevent pregnancy during the first 6 months after you give birth if:

    • You feed your baby nothing but breast milk
    • The baby feeds at least every 4 hours in the day and every 6 hours at night AND
    • Your menstrual periods have NOT returned.

    Use other methods of birth control if:

    • You have started having menstrual periods again
    • You have added formula supplements or solid food to your baby's diet OR
    • It has been more than 6 months since the birth.

    There is a small risk that you will get pregnant while you are breast-feeding. If you are worried about it, use another form of birth control as well.

  • Breast-feeding helps protect you against some diseases.

    Women who breast-feed are less likely to get breast cancer or ovarian cancer and may be less likely to suffer broken hips in older life. Breast-feeding lowers a mother's risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.

  • You can switch to bottle-feeding if you want to stop breast-feeding.

    You can try breast-feeding and then switch to bottles of formula if it doesn’t work out. But after you start bottle-feeding, you usually can’t switch to breast-feeding weeks later.

  • Breast-feeding can save you money.

    Breast-feeding can save as much as $1500 in a year because you don’t need to buy formula and bottles. Even if you need to rent or buy a breast pump when you go back to school or work, it may be tax deductible.

  • Breast-feeding is good for the environment.

    Breast milk is a natural food. There are no transportation and fuel costs. No packages end up in a landfill.

Breast-feeding has many benefits for you and your baby. Measure success by how much you and your baby enjoy nursing, not just by the amount of milk you produce or the length of time you breast-feed.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2013.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-02-01
Last reviewed: 2011-11-28
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2013 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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