Breastfeeding

Toggle: English / Spanish

Definition

Deciding to breastfeed is a decision only you can make. It deserves careful thought.

Experts agree that breastfeeding your baby for any length of time, no matter how short it is, will provide rewards for both you and your baby. Breast milk is the natural food source for infants younger than 1 year.

Breastfeeding may take time and practice. However, with help from nurses, breastfeeding experts, your doctor, or support groups, you can enjoy the benefits and rewards of breastfeeding.

See also:

Alternative Names

Nursing; Lactation; Deciding to breastfeed

Function

Food Sources

Side Effects

Recommendations

BENEFITS FOR YOUR BABY

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for the first 6 months of life.

  • It contains the right amounts of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.
  • It provides the digestive proteins (enzymes), minerals, vitamins, and hormones infants need.
  • It has antibodies from the mother that can help the baby fight infections.

Infants who breastfeed are less likely to have:

Breastfed babies may have a lower risk for developing:

BENEFITS FOR MOM

Moms who breastfeed a baby also have some benefits and rewards:

  • A unique bond between mother and child
  • Easier weight loss
  • Less likely to have menstrual periods as long as you breastfeed
  • Lower risk for breast cancer and certain ovarian cancers
  • Possible lower risk for osteoporosis
  • Lower risk of heart disease and obesity

Breastfeeding can save time and money, including:

  • Lower cost for feedings, up to $1,000 savings per year
  • No bottle cleaning
  • No formula preparation (breast milk is always available at the right temperature)
  • Reduced risk of breast cancer, some types of ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis

CAN I BREASTFEED MY BABY?

Some things can change your plans to breastfeed. How and what your baby eats may depend on your baby's health and your health. However, most babies, even preemies, can breastfeed if you get the help of a lactation consultant.

Some babies are unable to drink enough breast milk by breastfeeding, due to:

  • Birth defects of the mouth (cleft lip or cleft palate)
  • Difficulty sucking
  • Digestive problems (galactosemia)
  • Premature birth
  • Small size
  • Weak physical condition

See a lactation consultant if you have:

Breastfeeding is not recommended for mothers who have certain health problems, such as:

  • Active herpes sores on the breast
  • Active, untreated tuberculosis
  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection or AIDS
  • Nephritis
  • Serious illnesses (heart disease or cancer, for example)
  • Severe malnutrition

For more information see:

An excellent resource is the La Leche League International -- www.lalecheleague.org.

References

Payne PA, Tully MR. Breastfeeding promotion. In: Ratcliffe SD, Baxley EG, Cline MK, Sakornbut EL, eds. Family Medicine Obstetrics. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 4.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch)

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

This page was last updated: May 31, 2013

         
Average rating (0)