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Benefits of Breastfeeding

You and your baby can enjoy the many benefits of breastfeeding, including a very close and special mother-baby relationship.

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 prematurely.

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.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.womenshealth.gov