The Comprehensive Benefits of Breastfeeding  

There are many benefits to breast-feeding. Even if you are able to do it for only a short time, your baby's immune system can benefit from breast milk. This information explains the added benefits of breast-feeding for yourself, your baby, and how it influences society.

 

BENEFITS FOR BABY:

  • Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula.
  • As a result, breastfed infants grow exactly the way they should. They tend to gain less unnecessary weight and to be leaner. This may result in being less overweight later in life.
  • Premature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
  • Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.

BENEFITS FOR MOM:

  •  Nursing uses up extra calories, making it easier to lose the pounds of pregnancy. It also helps the uterus to get back to its original size and lessens any bleeding a woman may have after giving birth.
  • Breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding (no supplementing with formula), delays the return of normal ovulation and menstrual cycles. (However, you should still talk with your doctor or nurse about birth control choices.)
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and possibly the risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis after menopause.
  • Breastfeeding makes your life easier. It saves time and money. You do not have to purchase, measure, and mix formula. There are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night!
  • A mother can give her baby immediate satisfaction by providing her breast milk when her baby is hungry.
  • Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time for herself and her baby.
  • Breastfeeding can help a mother to bond with her baby. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure, warm and comforted.
  • Breastfeeding mothers may have increased self-confidence and feelings of closeness and bonding with their infants.

BENEFITS FOR SOCIETY:

  • Breastfeeding saves on health care costs. Total medical care costs for the nation are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants since breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.
  • Breastfeeding contributes to a more productive workforce. Breastfeeding mothers miss less work, as their infants are sick less often. Employer medical costs also are lower and employee productivity is higher.
  • Breastfeeding is better for our environment because there is less trash and plastic waste compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies.

Publications

The following publications and organizations provide more information on the benefits of breastfeeding:

  1. A Well-Kept Secret- Breastfeeding's Benefits to Mothers (Copyright © LLLI) – This publication contains information on the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby and the mother. It includes information on physiologic effects and long-term benefits. http://www.lalecheleague.org/NB/NBJulAug01p124.html
  2. Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee) – This booklet explains the health and emotional benefits that breastfeeding has on mothers and babies. It also gives information on the environmental and economic benefits of breastfeeding. http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Benefits.pdf [PDF, 116 KB].
  3. Breast Milk – This publication contains information on breast milk. It explains why it is better than cow's milk for infants, how breast milk is produced, how to establish, maintain or increase your milk supply, and how to store breast milk. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002451.htm
  4. Breast Milk Associated With Greater Mental Development in Preterm Infants, Fewer Re-hospitalizations – This news release describes a study which found that premature infants fed breast milk had greater mental development scores at 30 months than did infants who were not fed breast milk. Also, infants fed breast milk were less likely to have been re-hospitalized after their initial discharge than were the infants not fed breast milk. http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/oct2007/nichd-01.htm
  5. Breastfeeding – This web site briefly describes the benefits of breastfeeding, what to do if you have trouble breastfeeding, and links to information from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development about breastfeeding. http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/
  6. Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries – This report reviews the current evidence on the effects of breastfeeding on short- and long-term infant and maternal health outcomes in developed countries. It concludes that a history of breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of many diseases in infants and mothers from developed countries. http://www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tp/brfouttp.htm
  7. Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding (Copyright © Kids Health) – This publication contains information on the benefits of breastfeeding, the pros and cons of bottle-feeding, instructions on how to breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby, as well as answers to common breastfeeding questions. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/food/infants/breast_bottle_feeding.html
  8. Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses? (Copyright © LLLI) – This publication contains information on how breastfeeding can prevent some illnesses in your baby. http://www.lalecheleague.org/FAQ/prevention.html
  9. Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding (Copyright © United States Breastfeeding Committee) – This publication explains the medical and economic costs of not breastfeeding, and provides information on the non-medical costs of artificial feeding. http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/Issue-Papers/Economics.pdf [PDF, 83.9 KB].
  10. Feeding Baby with Breast Milk or Formula – This brochure helps parents decide on the way to feed their baby. Breastfeeding is the best, but if it's not possible, there are helpful tips for using formula. http://www.fda.gov/opacom/lowlit/feedbby.html
  11. Feeding Your Newborn (Copyright © Kids Health) – This publication contains information on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, the advantages of breastfeeding, limitations of both, and possible challenges. http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/food/infants/feednewborn.html
  12. Got Mom... (Copyright © ACNM) – GotMom.org was created by the American College of Nurse-Midwives to provide breastfeeding information and resources for mothers and families. It contains information on why breast milk is best, dispels common misunderstandings about breastfeeding, and it provides a list of resources that can help women and families with breastfeeding. http://www.gotmom.org/
  13. What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding my Toddler? (Copyright © La Leche League International) – This publication describes how breastfeeding your toddler can help their ability to mature and their understanding of discipline as well as provide protection from illness and allergies. http://www.lalecheleague.org/FAQ/advantagetoddler.html
  14. What's in Breast Milk? (Copyright © APA) – Proteins, fats and vitamins are some of the substances that make up breast milk. This publication describes the composition of breast milk and what makes it the best source of nutrition for your baby. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/whatsinbreastmilk.html

The Comprehensive Benefits of Breastfeeding. DHHS/Office on Women’s Health/National Women's Health Information Center. n.d. English. [PDF, 116KB]. [PDF, 83.9KB].

Last Reviewed: November 2008

Last Updated: November 13, 2014