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image description Breastfeeding Learning Center

Babies Are Born to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a normal part of mothers and babies being together. It helps build a bond that can last a lifetime.

Breastfeeding is what nature intended for mothers and babies. When the normal breastfeeding relationship does not take place, health problems can occur.

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Breastfeeding makes babies healthier

Infants who are not breastfed are at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and ear infections. These infants also may have more learning problems. These problems can occur during childhood and/or adulthood.

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In the first days of breastfeeding, a mother releases colostrum. Colostrum is a special kind of milk often called “nature’s vaccine” because it has disease-fighting antibodies. Colostrum also helps clean out meconium (the substance in your baby’s intestines at birth), helping reduce the chance he’ll have jaundice.

Babies who don’t get breast milk are 16 times more likely to be sick during their first two months of life. In addition to colostrum and antibodies, breast milk contains many other things that boost your baby’s natural immune system and directly protect her from infections.

Cow’s milk is not recommended for infants during the first year of life. Remember, cow’s milk and infant formula can never have the antibodies and other infection-fighting properties your breast milk has.

In addition to protecting your baby against jaundice and ear infections, breastmilk protects against a long list of ailments including:

  • constipation
  • urinary tract infections
  • asthma
  • obesity
  • diabetes
  • pneumonia
  • bronchitis
  • flu
  • German measles
  • childhood leukemia
  • SIDS
  • necrotizing entercolitis, a dangerous intestinal infection

Breastfeeding continues to protect your child long after they’re grown: For example, girls who were breastfed are 25% less likely to develop breast cancer as adults and are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.

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Breastfeeding makes babies smarter

Human breast milk enhances brain development. One study found that the average IQ of 7 and 8 year old children who had been breastfed as babies was 10 points higher than similar children who’d been bottle fed. A second study showed that toddlers who were breastfed had higher mental development scores than those who weren’t. Babies who are breastfed do better in school later, too.

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Breastfeeding makes moms healthier, too

Mothers who don’t breastfeed have higher stress levels and are more likely to be overweight. They also are at higher risk of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer; type 2 diabetes; osteoporosis; and rheumatoid arthritis.

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Breastfeeding saves time and money

If you breastfeed, food is always ready and available when your baby is hungry. There are no bottles to sterilize or formula to measure, mix or warm.

Breastfeeding also saves money. Depending on the brand you buy, formula can cost between $1,160 and $3,915 per year.

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Good for the community

The benefits of breastfeeding go beyond you and your baby. It also helps your community and the environment. Breastfed babies are sick less often, hospitalized less often and need fewer prescriptions,. This lowers health costs for everyone. Working moms who breastfeed miss less work and the medical costs for their employers are lower. Breastfeeding also eliminates the waste produced by cans, bottles and packaging needed for formula. Breastfeeding is a way that everyone – you, your baby and your neighbors – all win.

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Did you know?

In the United States, it is recommended that women with HIV or AIDS not breastfeed, as the virus can be passed to their baby through breastmilk. If you do not know your HIV status, please ask your health care provider for an HIV test.

Did you know?

Pediatricians recommend that babies be fed only breast milk for the first 6 months of life. Solid foods should be fed at about 6 months and breastfeeding should continue until the baby is at least 1 year of age or older.