Breastmilk is the best food for your baby. It has just the right amount of nutrients. It also protects your baby's digestive system and other body systems. And it helps these systems develop.
Breastmilk is the ideal food for babies. It has all the nutrients your baby needs to grow healthy and strong. Here are some of the many benefits for your baby:
Breastfeeding gives contact that your baby loves. Spending time skin-to-skin with you is calming and comforting.
Breastmilk lowers the risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Babies who are solely breastfed have a lower risk for ear infections in their first year than formula-fed babies.
Breastmilk has DHA. This is a fat that helps your baby’s developing brain, nervous system, and eyes.
Breastmilk is full of antibodies. These help your baby fight infection.
Breastmilk lowers your baby's risk for respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and diarrhea.
Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk for allergies, colds, and many other diseases. Formula-fed babies are more likely to have an allergy to cow's milk.
Breastmilk changes as your baby grows. This meets your baby's changing needs.
Breastfeeding all of the time for the first 6 months gives your baby more of these benefits.
Breastfeeding plus solid food from 6 months to 1 year or more gives more benefits.
Breastfed babies have fewer long-term health problems when they grow up. These problems include diabetes and obesity.
For many women, breastfeeding is an amazing experience. It creates a strong bond between mother and baby. Women who breastfeed also get health benefits. Other benefits for you include:
You can feel good knowing that your baby is growing healthy and strong because of your milk.
Breastmilk is convenient. It's free, clean, and always at the right temperature.
Breastfeeding burns calories. This can help you lose pregnancy weight faster.
Breastfeeding releases hormones that contract the uterus. This helps the uterus return to its normal size after childbirth.
Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk for ovarian and breast cancers.
Many people can help you learn to breastfeed. A lactation consultant is a healthcare provider specially trained to help moms breastfeed. Your nurse, midwife, nurse practitioner, obstetrician, pediatrician, or family practice doctor can also help you learn about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding all of the time (exclusively) for at least the first 6 months of life is best for your baby. This means your baby should get only breastmilk. It can be expressed and fed to your baby in a bottle, as needed.
You should not give your baby water, sugar water, formula, or solids during his or her first 6 months unless your baby's healthcare provider tells you to.
Your baby’s provider may also tell you to give your baby vitamins, minerals, or medicines. Breastfed babies should get extra vitamin D. Your baby's provider will tell you about the type and amount of vitamin D you should give your baby.
You know about many of the benefits of breastfeeding. But you might not know why it is important to breastfeed solely for at least 6 months.
Your baby gets the best protection against health problems when he or she gets only breastmilk. Breastfeeding some of the time is good. But breastfeeding all of the time is best.
Giving your baby formula or other liquids may cause you to:
Have more problems breastfeeding
Make less milk
Be less confident in breastfeeding
Breastfeed less often
Stop breastfeeding before your baby is at least 6 months old
Breastfeeding all of the time is almost always the best thing to do. But your healthcare provider may have reasons to recommend giving your baby formula or other liquids. They include:
Your baby has certain health problems. There are cases where you may need to add formula or other liquids, often only for a short time. This may be the case if your baby has low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), loses body fluids (dehydration), or has high levels of bilirubin.
You have certain health problems. Some infections can be passed from your skin to your baby's skin or through your breastmilk. So women with HIV/AIDS or untreated and contagious TB (tuberculosis) should not breastfeed. Women with active skin sores from chickenpox (varicella) or other skin sores can pump their breastmilk and feed their baby. But they should keep their baby’s skin from touching any of the sores.
You use illegal drugs or drink alcohol. Women who use illegal drugs should not breastfeed. Women who drink alcohol should have their last drink 2 or more hours before breastfeeding, or drink right after breastfeeding.
You take certain prescribed medicines. If you take prescribed medicine, ask your baby’s healthcare provider if you can breastfeed.
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.