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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

Mother and child.
BREASTFEEDING PROMOTION AND SUPPORT

Breastfeeding Benefits

Clinicians and mothers should make themselves familiar with the many benefits of breastfeeding for mother and child.

  • Breastfeeding significantly reduces risk of type 2 diabetes for both mother and infant.
  • Breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of obesity by about one third.
  • Breastfed babies don’t get constipated; formula-fed babies do, possibly from the iron in the formula or the protein in cow’s milk. Breastmilk promotes the emptying of the colon with each feed. Formula or cow’s milk tends to slow gastric emptying, and the neonate or infant may not pass a stool every day.
  • Breastfeeding promotes uterine involution, and can help control postpartum bleeding.
  • Breastfeeding promotes postpartum weight loss in the mother.
  • Breastfed infants have fewer allergies than formula-fed infants. This is very important if the patient has a history of allergies.
  • The antibodies in breast milk protect the infant from upper respiratory infections, influenza, otitis media, asthma, and eczema.
  • Recent research suggests that breastfeeding may help prevent juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Research has also shown that there is a lower incidence of SIDS among breastfed infants.
  • Breastfed infants do not suffer from tooth decay as infants, which is a significant problem with bottle-fed infants.
  • Breastfed babies are easy to comfort at the breast.
  • Breastfed infants tend to have fewer speech problems than bottle-fed infants.
  • Breastfeeding enhances infant learning and breast milk fosters brain cell growth.
  • Breastfeeding promotes maternal and infant attachment. Secure attachment promotes infant mental health and enhances trust and self-confidence.
  • Breast milk is always available and at the right temperature.
  • Breastfeeding eliminates the necessity for bottles, sterilization, and formula.
  • Nighttime feedings are easy. No warming of bottles in the middle of the night.
  • Working mothers who are breastfeeding miss fewer days of work, because their babies don’t get sick as often.
  • Prolactin is released during breastfeeding, promoting maternal relaxation and feelings of well-being.
  • There is a lower incidence of breast cancer among breastfed infants.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding suppresses ovulation and offers some protection from pregnancy for the first few months.

Resources

Maternal Weight-Loss Patterns During Prolonged Lactation Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Does Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Breastfeeding and Brain Development (Cognitive Development) Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov [PDF – 200 KB]

Oxytocin, Prolactin, Milk Production and Their Relationship With Personality Traits in Women After Vaginal Delivery or Cesarean Section Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Breast Cancer Risk Associations With Birth Order and Maternal Age According to Breastfeeding Status in Infancy Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

Fertility After Childbirth: Postpartum Ovulation and Menstruation in Bottle- and Breast-Feeding Mothers Exit Disclaimer: You Are Leaving www.ihs.gov

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