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Benefits of Breastfeeding

For Children

Breastfeeding helps children in ways that can’t be copied by any other way of feeding. The benefits of breastfeeding begin right after birth and last for many years after breastfeeding ends.

Compared with formula-fed children, those who are breastfed are healthier and have fewer symptoms and shorter illnesses when they do get sick.

Breastfed children:

  • Score higher on tests of understanding at school age, and also on vision tests.
  • Are less likely to suffer sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Are less likely to have infections (such as ear infections, respiratory infections and meningitis) and their symptoms (such as diarrhea).
  • Have a lower risk of the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).
  • Suffer less often from some forms of cancer (such as Hodgkin’s disease and childhood leukemia).
  • Have a lower risk of juvenile onset diabetes, if they have a family history of the disease and are breastfed exclusively for at least four months.
  • Are significantly protected against asthma and eczema, if at risk for allergic disorders and exclusively breast-fed for at least four months.
  • May have a lower risk of obesity in childhood and adolescence.
  • Have fewer cavities and are less likely to require braces.

Breastfeeding provides benefits not just for full-term infants, but also for premature and low birth-weight infants.

For premature infants, human milk:

  • Significantly shortens the baby’s hospital stay following birth.
  • Reduces hospital costs.
  • Speeds brainstem development.
  • Lowers the risk of life-threatening diseases of the digestive system and other infectious diseases.

For Mothers Who Breast feed Babies

  • Less risk of ovarian cancer and pre-menopausal breast cancers. The more months a woman has spent breast-feeding, the greater the beneficial effect.
  • Less risk of osteoporosis.
  • Quicker recovery after childbirth, with less risk of postpartum bleeding.
  • Less risk of long-term obesity. More likely to return to pre-pregnancy weight.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding may reduce the risk of anemia by delaying the return of the menstrual cycle for 20 to 30 weeks.

For Families and Society

  • Less need for costly health services.
  • Fewer sick days that families must use to care for sick children.
  • Reduced cost for feeding, which is about $300 a year for increased food for a nursing mother, compared to $1,200 a year for powdered formula, and even more for concentrated and ready-to-feed formulas.
  • Breastfeeding requires no packaging and consumes no electricity or fuel in production or preparation.

Source: U.S. Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.