Breastmilk is Best
Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. It contains just the right amount of
nutrients. It is also gentle on your baby's developing stomach, intestines, and other body systems. It
is recommended that you breastfeed at least until your baby is 6 months old, then
continue to breastfeed while adding solid foods until at least 1 to 2 years old.
Benefits of breastmilk
Here are some of the reasons that breastfeeding is best for your baby.
Compared with formula, the nutrients in breastmilk are better absorbed and used by
your baby. These include sugar (carbohydrate) and protein.
Breastmilk has the nutrients that are best for your baby’s brain growth and nervous
system development. Studies of breastfed babies have found that they do better on
intelligence tests when they grow older.
A breastfed baby's eyes also work better. This is mostly because of certain types
of fat in breastmilk.
Breastmilk has many disease-fighting factors. They help prevent mild to severe infections
Breastfed babies have far fewer digestive, lung, and ear infections.
Babies born early (premature) who are breastfed are also less likely to get a serious
infection of the intestines called NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis).
If your baby gets an infection when breastfeeding, the infection is likely to be less
Preventing other conditions
Breastfeeding helps protects babies from many serious health problems. And it keeps
on offering protection as they get older. Breastfed babies have:
A lower risk for SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) than babies who are not breastfed.
A lower risk of getting asthma and skin problems related to allergies. Formula-fed
babies are more likely to have milk allergies.
Less diarrhea and a lowered chance of getting some digestive conditions. Formula can
actually change the healthy bacteria in a baby's intestines that help with digestion
and fighting disease.
A lower risk of developing leukemia.
Fewer long-term health problems as they grow up. These include diabetes and obesity.
Women who breastfeed also get many health benefits. If you breastfeed, you are more
likely to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy. You are also less likely to
get breast and ovarian cancer and have lower blood pressure and a lower chance of
diabetes later in life.
What is exclusive breastfeeding?
Only breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months of life is best for your baby.
This is called "exclusive" breastfeeding. Breastmilk can be expressed and fed to your
baby in a bottle, as needed.
You should not give your baby water, sugar water, formula, or solids during their
first 6 months. The only exception to this is:
Your baby’s provider may also tell you to give your baby vitamins. The American Academy
of Pediatrics recommends that breastfed babies get extra vitamin D. Your baby's provider
will tell you about the type and amount of vitamin D you should give your baby.
Risks of not breastfeeding only
You know about many of the benefits of breastfeeding. But you might not know why it
is important to breastfeed only for at least 6 months.
Your baby gets the best protection against health problems when they get only breastmilk.
Breastfeeding some of the time is good. But breastfeeding all the time is best.
Giving your baby formula or other liquids may make you:
Have more problems breastfeeding
Produce less milk
Be less confident in breastfeeding
Breastfeed less often
Stop breastfeeding before your baby is at least 6 months old
Who should not breastfeed only
Breastfeeding only is almost always recommended. But your healthcare provider may
have reasons to recommend giving your baby formula or other liquids. They include:
Your baby has certain health problems. Breastmilk only is usually recommended. But you may need to add formula or other
liquids. For example, your baby may need this if they have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
or loss of body fluids (dehydration).
You have or have had certain health problems. There are few reasons why you should not breastfeed your baby. Some infections can
be passed through your breastmilk. People who use illegal drugs or alcohol should
not breastfeed. Check with your healthcare provider about the safety of any medicines
you are taking.