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Breastmilk and breastfeeding: benefits

0-3 years

Breastmilk is the food designed by nature for human babies. Breastmilk and breastfeeding have many health, emotional and practical benefits for you and your baby.

Breastmilk and breastfeeding benefits

Breastmilk really is a wonder – a complete meal, ready whenever and wherever you and your baby are.

Most mothers can breastfeed if they have the right information, support and care.

Breastmilk for babies: what the experts say

Here are some reasons why experts say that breastmilk is the natural food for your baby.

Breastmilk: designed by nature

  • Breastmilk has developed over millions of years to be exactly suited to your baby’s needs. Although baby formula manufacturers try to copy breastmilk as closely as they can, formula won’t ever be exactly the same as breastmilk.
  • Breastmilk adapts to your baby’s changing needs as he gets older and has fewer feeds. It even changes during a feed – the first milk is thirst-quenching, and the last milk is rich, creamy and full of good fats.
  • The taste of breastmilk changes with whatever you’ve eaten, which means that a breastfed baby is likely to accept new tastes when she starts eating solids.

Breastmilk: a complete food

  • Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of life. Your baby doesn’t need any water or foods other than breastmilk in these early months.
  • Breastmilk is easy to digest and is easily absorbed into your baby’s system.

Breastmilk: a basis for healthy development

Breastfeeding encourages skin-to-skin contact and eye contact between you and your baby. Being physically connected to your baby can help him bond with you and feel secure.

 Breastfeeding: why it’s good for mothers

  • Breastfeeding is convenient. You don’t have to sterilise bottles, scrub teats, carry bottles and sterile water when you go out, mix powder, keep baby formula chilled or warm formula for feeds.
  • Breastmilk is free.
  • Breastfeeding can help some women lose weight after the birth.
  • Breastfeeding mothers get back to sleep more easily than formula-feeding mothers, and their sleep cycles are more in tune with their babies’ cycles.
  • Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer, osteoporosis and type-2 diabetes.

Breastfeeding: your choice

In the end, it’s an individual choice – but it should be an informed choice.

If you decide not to breastfeed, rest assured that formulas give your baby adequate nutrition. And if you need to supplement breastmilk with formula, it doesn’t mean that breastfeeding has to stop completely.

Video

Breastfeeding: why it’s good

3:59

This video is about breastfeeding and your baby’s health and development. Watch mums breastfeeding and learn why breastfeeding is good for baby and good for you. Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for the first six months of life and can protect baby from infection and disease. Breastfeeding is also a great opportunity for skin-to-skin contact and bonding with your baby.

How long to feed your baby breastmilk

It’s recommended that you breastfeed exclusively until you introduce solid foods when your baby starts showing signs she’s ready, which usually happens around six months. It’s around this time that babies start to need extra nutrients for growth and development.

Your baby needs only small amounts of food for the first few months of solids, and breastmilk is still baby’s main source of nutrition. Once you introduce solids, it’s best for your baby if you keep breastfeeding along with giving your baby solids until your baby is at least 12 months old.

After that, it’s really up to you and your baby how long you keep going. If you decide to breastfeed for longer, your baby will get added benefits like protection against infections in the toddler years.

Video

Common breastfeeding questions: how often, how long, waking baby

3:17

This video answers common questions about breastfeeding. A lactation consultant says that as long as your baby is getting enough milk, it doesn’t matter how long or how often baby feeds. She says sleeping with baby in your room can help you catch early feeding cues, so you can feed your baby before crying starts. The video has phone numbers for getting help with breastfeeding.

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Last updated or reviewed
30-07-2018

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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