Nursing your baby; Lactation; Deciding to breastfeed
Experts say that breastfeeding your baby is good for you and your baby. If you breastfeed for any length of time, no matter how short it is, you and your baby will benefit from breastfeeding.
Learn about breastfeeding your baby and decide if breastfeeding is for you. Know that breastfeeding takes time and practice. Get help from your family, nurses, lactation consultants, or support groups to succeed at breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Is Good for Your Baby
Breast milk is the natural food source for infants younger than 1 year. Breast milk:
Has the right amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat
Provides the digestive proteins, minerals, vitamins, and hormones infants need
Has antibodies that help keep your baby from getting sick
Your Breastfed Baby Is Less Likely to Get Sick
Your baby will have fewer:
Gas, diarrhea, and constipation
Skin diseases (such as eczema)
Stomach or intestinal infections
Respiratory diseases, such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis
Your breastfed baby may have a lower risk for developing:
Obesity or weight problems
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Breastfeeding Is Good for You Too
Form a unique bond between yourself and your baby
Find it easier to lose weight
Delay starting your menstrual periods
Lower your risk for diseases, such as breast and certain ovarian cancers, osteoporosis, heart disease, and obesity
Breastfeeding Can Save You Time and Money
Save about $1,000 per year when you do not buy formula
Avoid bottle cleaning
Avoid having to prepare formula (breast milk is always available at the right temperature)
Get Help if Your Baby or You Have Special Needs
Know that most babies, even premature babies, can breastfeed. Talk to a lactation consultant for help with breastfeeding.
Some babies may have trouble breastfeeding because of:
Birth defects of the mouth (cleft lip or cleft palate)
Problems with sucking
Weak physical condition
You may have trouble breastfeeding if you have:
Breast cancer or other cancer
Breast infection or breast abscess
Poor milk supply (uncommon)
Previous surgery or radiation treatment
Breastfeeding is not recommended for mothers who have:
Active herpes sores on the breast
Active, untreated tuberculosis
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection or AIDS
Inflammation of the kidney
Serious illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer)
Newton ER. Lactation and Breastfeeding. In: Gabbe SG, Niebyl JR, Simpson JL, et al, eds. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 23.
Payne PA, Tully MR. Breastfeeding promotion. In: Ratcliffe SD, BaxleyEG, Cline MK, Sakornbut EL, eds. Family Medicine Obstetrics. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 4.
Cynthia D. White, MD, Fellow American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Group Health Cooperative, Bellevue, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.