Benefits of breastfeeding


Breastfeeding is the biological norm


  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is less common in breastfed babies
  • Obesity is less common among individuals who were breastfed
  • Breastfed babies have higher IQs
  • Allergy risks are reduced
  • Breastfed babies have better eyesight

In 2002-3 93.5% of babies left hospital breastfeeding. In the 60s and 70s this percentage was only 40-45%. What an improvement!

Besides the obvious health benefits to the human population, there are also economic and environmental reasons to support breastfeeding.

Breastmilk costs less to produce than formula and produces no waste. It has no negative impact upon nature… because it is part of nature!

For the baby breastfeeding provides:

  1. A nutritionally complete food that supports a normal growth trajectory
  2. A living fluid, which supplies the infant with important immunological, anti-infective and anti-inflammatory properties for protection against disease and infections. These properties include: (1, 2)
    • Promotion of normal gut flora, which protects against gastroenteritis and necrotising entercolitis
    • Protection against urinary tract, respiratory tract and ear infections
  3. Optimum cognitive and brain development. On average, infants that are not breastfed have a lower IQ (3)
  4. Reduced incidence of SIDS with any breastfeeding; compared to exclusively breastmilk substitute feeding (4)
  5. Protection against asthma/allergy (5, 6)
  6. Protection against risks of childhood cancers (2)
  7. Reduced chronic illness later in life (eg: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, lower total cholesterol) (7)
  8. Hormonal stimulation from the skin-to-skin touch resulting in effects such as reduced infant stress levels (8)

For the mother, breastfeeding:

  1. Completes the female reproductive cycle ensuring many positive effects for maternal health including: (9)
  2. Hormonal changes:
    • Contraction of the uterus aiding recovery from childbirth (10)
    • Suppression of fertility (5)
    • Conservation of blood loss (10,11)
    • Reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer (9)
    • Can have an anti- stress effect (8)
  3. Weight loss:
    • Breastfeeding is associated with greater postpartum weight loss (12,13)
    • There are lower obesity rates in breastfeeding women (14)
  4. Accelerated bone mineralisation post breastfeeding resulting in reduced incidence of osteoporosis in later life (15,16)
  5. Lower blood pressure (17)
  6. Lower incidence of postpartum depression (2)
  7. Increased sleep duration compared to women who used breastmilk substitute supplementation at night (18)
  8. Improved cholesterol clearance and glucose control resulting in reduced incidence of heart disease and diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) post breastfeeding (12,19)
  9. Changes observed in breast appearance following childbirth are due to pregnancy rather than lactation (20)
  10. Self satisfaction and empowerment:
    • Motherhood increases IQ and problem solving skills; rat studies show a further advantage with lactation (21)
    • High self esteem because of a sense of achievement in attaining parenting goals.
  • Production of breastmilk is economical, thus cheaper than breastmilk substitutes. It also has a positive global impact on the economy and environment (22)


1. Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002 (1):CD003517.

2. Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Trikalinos TA, Lau J. A summary of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s evidence report on breastfeeding in developed countries. Breastfeed Med. 2009 Oct;4 Suppl 1:S17-30.

3. Kramer MS, Aboud F, Mironova E, Vanilovich I, Platt RW, Matush L, et al. Breastfeeding and Child Cognitive Development: New Evidence From a Large Randomized Trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008 May 1, 2008;65(5):578-584.

4. Vennemann MM, Bajanowski T, Brinkmann B, Jorch G, Yucesan K, Sauerland C, et al. Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome? Pediatrics. 2009 Mar;123(3):e406-10.

5. Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Maternal dietary antigen avoidance during pregnancy or lactation, or both, for preventing or treating atopic disease in the child. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;3:CD000133.

6. Oddy WH. The long-term effects of breastfeeding on asthma and atopic disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2009;639:237-51.

7. Horta B, Bahl R, Martines J, Victora C. Evidence on the long term effects of breastfeeding: systematic reviews and meta-analyses [Internet]. Geneva: WHO Press; 2007 [cited 2011 Jul 15]. Available from:

8. Uvnas-Moberg K. Oxytocin linked antistress effects–the relaxation and growth response. Acta Physiol Scand Suppl. 1997;640:38-42.

9. Labbok MH. Effects of breastfeeding on the mother. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2001 Feb;48(1):143-58.

10. Chua S, Arulkumaran S, Lim I, Selamat N, Ratnam SS. Influence of breastfeeding and nipple stimulation on postpartum uterine activity. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1994 Sep;101(9):8045.

11. Kennedy KI, Labbok MH, Van Look PF. Lactational amenorrhea method for family planning. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 1996 Jul;54(1):55-7.

12. Stuebe A. The risks of not breastfeeding for mothers and infants. Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Fall;2(4):222-31.

13. Baker JL, Gamborg M, Heitmann BL, Lissner L, Sorensen TIA, Rasmussen KM. Breastfeeding reduces postpartum weight retention. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 December 1, 2008;88(6):1543-1551.

14. Donath SM, Amir LH. Does maternal obesity adversely affect breastfeeding initiation and duration? J Paediatr Child Health. 2000 Oct;36(5):482-6.

15. Sowers M, Randolph J, Shapiro B, Jannausch M. A prospective study of bone density and pregnancy after an extended period of lactation with bone loss. Obstet Gynecol. 1995 Feb;85(2):285-9.

16. Carneiro RM, Prebehalla L, Tedesco MB, Sereika SM, Hugo M, Hollis BW, et al. Lactation and bone turnover: a conundrum of marked bone loss in the setting of coupled bone turnover. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2010 Apr;95(4):1767-76.

17. Jonas W, Nissen E, Ransjo-Arvidson AB, Wiklund I, Henriksson P, Uvnas-Moberg K. Short- and long-term decrease of blood pressure in women during breastfeeding. Breastfeed Med. 2008 Jun;3(2):103-9.

18. Doan T, Gardiner A, Gay CL, Lee KA. Breast-feeding increases sleep duration of new parents. J Perinat Neonatal Nurs. 2007 Jul-Sep;21(3):200-6.

19. Jensen RG, Ferris AM, Lammi-Keefe CJ. Cholesterol levels and the breast-feeding mom. JAMA. 1989 Oct 20;262(15):2092-3.

20. Rinker B, Veneracion M, Walsh CP. The Effect of Breastfeeding on Breast Aesthetics. Aesthetic Surgery Journal. 2008;28(5):534-537.

21. Kinsley CH, Lambert KG. The maternal brain. Sci Am. 2006 Jan;294(1):72-9.

22. Bartick M, Reinhold A. The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics. 2010 May;125(5):e1048-56.