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. Breast-fed babies usually have loose bowel movements that are easy to pass. Constipation is rare in breast-fed 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 breast-feeding until your child is at least one year old.
Breast-feeding helps protects your baby from sickness. Breast-feeding helps protect your baby from allergies and illnesses, such as diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breast-fed 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.
Nursing 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. Breast-feeding helps deepen the bond between you and your baby.
How do I benefit from breast-feeding?
Breast-feeding helps your uterus shrink after delivery. Nursing causes your body to release a hormone called oxytocin. This hormone helps your uterus go back to its normal size after delivery.
Breast-feeding can help you lose weight. Breast-feeding uses up calories and can help you lose some of the weight you gained during pregnancy.
Breast-feeding is convenient. No matter where you are, the perfect food is ready for your baby. Itâ€™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.
Breast-feeding 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 breast-feeding during the first 6 months. If you are worried about it, use another form of birth control. Talk with your healthcare provider about this.
Breast-feeding helps protect you against some diseases. Women who breast-feed are less likely to get breast cancer or ovarian cancer and may have a lower risk of breaking their hips as they age. Breast-feeding also lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.
You can switch to bottle-feeding if you want to stop breast-feeding. You can try breast-feeding and then switch to bottles of formula if it doesnâ€™t work out. But after you start feeding your baby formula rather than your breast milk, you usually cannot switch to breast-feeding weeks later.
Breast-feeding can save you money. Breast-feeding can save as much as $1500 a year because you donâ€™t need to buy formula and bottles.
Breast-feeding 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.
Breast-feeding has many benefits for you and your baby. Measure success by how much you and your baby enjoy nursing, not just by the amount of milk you produce or the length of time you breast-feed.
Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth. Last modified: 2013-12-18 Last reviewed: 2013-12-18
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.
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United States Breastfeeding Committee, Economic benefits of breastfeeding, 2002
Clinical guidelines for the establishment of exclusive breastfeeding. International Lactation Consultant Association â€“ Professional Association.1999 Apr (revised 2005 2010 Jun).28 pages.NGC:004461 Accessed 12/13/13 http://www.ilca.org
American Academy of Family Physicians. Breastfeeding (Position Paper).Leawood, KS: American Acad Family Physicians; 2007. Accessed 12/13/13 from http://www.aafp.org