Breastfeeding Promotion, Protection and Support

Breastfeeding helps both mothers and babies stay healthy. The U.S. Surgeon General and most experts recommend that babies be fed only breast milk for the first six months and continue to be fed breast milk until one year of age, or longer, as complementary foods are introduced.

Breastfeeding is the first step to a healthy life. It provides advantages to babies that cannot be matched by any other form of feeding and strengthens the bond between mother and baby. Breast milk helps protect a baby from colds, diarrhea, and respiratory and ear infections. Breast milk also reduces the risk of allergies, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and obesity.

Breastfeeding has economic advantages. Breastfeeding reduces or eliminates the cost of formula for families and because breastfed babies and their mothers tend to be healthier, families, businesses and health insurers also save money.

The Impacts of Not Breastfeeding

Breast milk protects infants from harmful bacteria that can make them sick. Relatively small amounts of infant formula will change the gut and promote the growth and absorption of harmful bacteria. This increases the risk of diarrhea and other infections.

Infants who are not breastfed have increased risks of:

  • Diarrhea and vomiting (gastroenteritis)
  • Hospitalizations from bronchitis, pneumonia or other respiratory diseases
  • Ear infections (otitis media)
  • Asthma (especially among those with a family history)
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Tissue death in the intestine (necrotizing enterocolitis) among preterm infants

The benefits of breastfeeding continue beyond infancy. Children who were not breast fed have increased risks of:

  • Childhood obesity
  • Type 1 (insulin-dependent) and type 2 (insulin-resistant) diabetes mellitus
  • High total cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Leukemia (cancer of the blood)
  • Lower scores on intelligence tests

Women who breastfeed experience both short-and long-term health benefits including a faster return to their pre-pregnancy weight. Women who do not breastfeed their babies have increased risks of:

  • Postpartum bleeding after delivery
  • Breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Type 2 (insulin-resistant) diabetes mellitus
  • Heart disease (cardiovascular disease)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)

Learn about Breastfeeding Your Baby