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Breastfeeding Benefits

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KEY POINTS

  • Breast milk is the perfect food to help your baby's body and brain grow and develop.
  • The only food your baby needs for the first 6 months is breast milk. Breast milk helps protect your baby from sickness.
  • Measure success by how much you and your baby enjoy breastfeeding, not just by the amount of milk you produce or the length of time you breastfeed.

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How does my baby benefit from breastfeeding?

  • Breast milk is the perfect food to help your baby's body and brain grow and develop. Breast milk has just the right amounts of protein, fat, and other nutrients for your baby. No infant formula can be made exactly the same as human milk. Babies can digest breast milk easily. Breastfed babies usually have loose bowel movements that are easy to pass. Constipation is rare in breastfed infants.

    The only food your baby needs for the first 6 months is breast milk. After you start feeding your baby solid foods, it helps to keep breastfeeding until your child is at least one year old.

  • Breastfeeding helps protect your baby from sickness. Breastfeeding helps protect your baby from allergies and illnesses, such as diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breastfed babies also have a much lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Your baby may be less likely to have skin problems and asthma than babies who are fed infant formula.
  • Breastfeeding 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. Breastfeeding helps deepen the bond between you and your baby.

How do I benefit from breastfeeding?

  • Breastfeeding helps your uterus shrink after delivery. Breastfeeding causes your body to release a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps your uterus go back to its normal size after delivery.
  • Breastfeeding can help you lose weight. Breastfeeding uses up calories and can help you lose some of the weight you gained during pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding is convenient. No matter where you are, the perfect food is ready for your baby. It’s at the right temperature and in the correct amount. You can take your baby with you anywhere, knowing that you can feed her whenever she is hungry.
  • Breastfeeding helps prevent pregnancy during the first 6 months after you give birth if:
    • You feed your baby nothing but breast milk.
    • Your baby feeds at least every 4 hours in the day and every 6 hours at night AND
    • Your menstrual periods have not come back.

    If you want to prevent pregnancy, you will need to use another method 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 you gave birth.

    There is a small risk that you will get pregnant while you are breastfeeding during the first 6 months. If you are worried about it, use another form of birth control. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.

  • Breastfeeding helps protect you against some diseases. Women who breastfeed are less likely to get breast cancer or ovarian cancer and may have a lower risk of breaking their hips as they age. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • You can switch to bottle-feeding if you want to stop breastfeeding. You can try breastfeeding and then switch to bottles of formula if it doesn’t work out. But after you start feeding your baby formula rather than your breast milk, you usually cannot switch to breastfeeding weeks later.
  • Breastfeeding can save you money. Breastfeeding can save as much as $1500 a year because you don’t need to buy formula and bottles.
  • Breastfeeding 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.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for you and your baby. Measure success by how much you and your baby enjoy breastfeeding, not just by the amount of milk you produce or the length of time you breastfeed.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-01-17
Last reviewed: 2017-12-11
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.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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