Benefits of Breast Feeding
Fewer Infections and better health
Exclusive breastfeeding for four or more months
appeared to diminish the risk of respiratory hospitalization in infancy to
one-third or less the risk observed for formula-fed infants. V. R. Bachrach, E. Schwartz, and L.R.
Bachrach, “Breastfeeding and the Risk of Hospitalization for Respiratory
Disease: A Meta-Analysis,” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent
Medicine 157, 3 (2003): 237-243.
Breastfeeding for at least four months confers
a statistically significant "protective effect" against antibiotic
treatments at 1.5 years and at 2.5 years.
“[T]he more-at-risk children could be protected by breast-feeding and by
being taken care of in a familial setting, especially before 2.5 years of
age." Lise Dubois
and Manon Girard, "Breast-feeding, day-care attendance and the frequency
of antibiotic treatments from 1.5 to 5 years: a population-based longitudinal
study in Canada," Social Science
& Medicine 60 (2005): 2035-2044.
Breastfeeding appears to
reduce symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections in premature infants up
to seven months after release from hospital in a 2002 study of 39 infants. Bier
Blaymore, et al., "Human milk reduces outpatient
upper respiratory symptoms in premature infants during their first year of
life". J Perinatol
22, 5 (2002): 354–359.
A case-control study found
that breastfeeding reduced the risk of acquiring urinary tract infections in
infants up to seven months of age, with the protection strongest immediately
after birth. S. Marild, et al.,"Protective effect of breastfeeding against urinary tract
infection". Acta Paediatr. 93,
2 (2004): 164–168.
The 2007 review for AHRQ
found that breastfeeding reduced the risk of acute otitis media, non-specific
gastroenteritis, and severe lower respiratory tract infection. S. Ip, et al., "Breastfeeding
and maternal and infant health outcomes in developed countries" Evidence Report
Technological Assessment 153 (2007): 1–186.
A study conducted at a
University in Germany found that breastfeeding halved the risk of sudden infant
death syndrome in children up to the age of 1. M.M. Vennemann, et
al., “Does breastfeeding reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome?” Pediatrics
123, 3 (2009): e406-410.
breastfed have less chance of developing diabetes mellitus type 1 than peers
with a shorter duration of breastfeeding and an earlier exposure to cow milk
and solid foods. F.
Perez-Bravo, et al., "Genetic predisposition and environmental factors
leading to the development of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus in Chilean
children," Journal of
Molecular Medicine 74, 2
In children who are at risk
for developing allergic disease, atopic syndrome can be prevented or delayed
through exclusive breastfeeding for four months, though these benefits may not
be present after four months of age. However, the key factor could be the age at
which non-breastmilk is introduced rather than duration of breastfeeding. F. R. Greer, et al.,"Effects of early nutritional interventions on the
development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal
dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary
foods, and hydrolyzed formulas," Pediatrics
(journal) 121, 1 (2008):
Atopic dermatitis, the most
common form of eczema, can be reduced through exclusive breastfeeding beyond 12
weeks in individuals with a family history of atopy, but when breastfeeding
beyond 12 weeks is combined with other foods incidents of eczema rise
irrespective of family history. H. R. Pratt, "Breastfeeding and eczema," Early Human Development 9,
Breastfeeding appears to reduce
the risk of extreme obesity in children aged 39 to 42 months. J. Armstrong and J. J. Reilly, "Breastfeeding and lowering the risk of childhood obesity,"
The Lancet 359,
9322 (2002): 2003–2004.
A 2011 study showed that among
children who were never breast-fed -- or who stopped breast-feeding before the
age of 4 months -- introducing solid foods before 4 months of age was linked to
a sixfold increase in the risk of obesity.
The timing of solid foods didn't increase the odds of becoming obese in
youngsters who were breast-fed. Susanna Y. Huh, et al., “Timing of Solid Food
Introduction and Risk of Obesity in Preschool-Aged Children,” Pediatrics
127, 3 (2011): e544-e551.
*There are a few studies
that have found no connection between breastfeeding and higher intelligence in later
life, but there is a more robust amount of research showing that there is a
In tests of low birth weight children at
age seven or eight, it was found that those who had been breastfed for more than
eight months had verbal IQ scores six points higher than comparable children
breastfed for less time. L. J. Horwood, et al., "Breast milk feeding and cognitive ability
at 7-8 years,” Archives
Dis. Child. Fetal Neonatal Ed. 84,
1 (2001): F23–27.
A study using data on 2,734
sibling pairs from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health "provide[d]
persuasive evidence of a causal connection between breastfeeding and
intelligence." The same data "also suggests that nonexperimental
studies of breastfeeding overstate some of [breastfeeding's] other long-term
benefits, even if controls are included for race, ethnicity, income, and
Evenhouse and S. Reilly, "Improved estimates of the
benefits of breastfeeding using sibling comparisons to reduce selection bias,"
Services Research 40, 6
Pt 1(2005): 1781–1802.
A review of the literature conducted
for the World Health Organization showed that “breastfeeding is associated with
increased cognitive development in childhood." The review also states that
"The issue remains of whether the association is related to the properties
of breastmilk itself, or whether breastfeeding enhances the bonding between
mother and child, and thus contributes to intellectual development.” B. L. Horta, et al., Evidence
on the long-term effects of breastfeeding: systematic reviews and meta-analyses.
(2007) Geneva, Switzerland: World Health Organization.
The country of Belarus carried out the largest randomized
trial ever conducted in the area of human lactation. Of 13,889 infants born at these hospitals and
polyclinics and followed up in 2002-2005, those who had been born in hospitals
and polyclinics receiving breastfeeding promotion had IQs that were 2.9-7.5 points
higher. The authors concluded that the
data "provide strong evidence that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding
improves children's cognitive development.” M.S. Kramer, et al., "Breastfeeding
and child cognitive development: new evidence from a large randomized trial,” Archives of General Psychiatry 65,
5 (2008): 578–584.
Benefits for Mother
beneficial hormones are released into the mother's body and the maternal bond can be strengthened.
Breastfeeding,” (2009) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Lactation that lasts for at
least 24 months is associated with a 23% lower risk of coronary heart disease. A. M. Stuebe, et
al., "Duration of lactation and incidence of
myocardial infarction in middle to late adulthood," American Journal
of Obstetrics & Gynecology 200, 9 (2009): 138.e1–8.
According to a study out of
Sweden, women who breast fed for a longer duration have a lower risk for
contracting rheumatoid arthritis than women who breast fed for a shorter
duration or who had never breast fed. M. Pikwer, U. Bergstrom, J.A. Nilsson, et al., "Breast feeding, but not use of oral contraceptives, is
associated with a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis," Annals of Rheumatic Disease 68, 4 (2009): 526–530.
mothers require less insulin. W. Rayburn, et al., "Changes in insulin therapy during pregnancy". American Journal of Perinatology
2, 4 (1985): 271–275
Reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Kavitha T. Ram, et al.,
"Duration of lactation is associated with lower
prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in midlife—SWAN, the study of women’s
health across the nation," American
Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 198, 3 (2008): 268.2e1-268.e6. E. P. Gunderson, et
al., "Duration of Lactation and Incidence of the Metabolic Syndrome in
Women of Reproductive Age According to Gestational Diabetes Mellitus Status: A
20-Year Prospective Study in CARDIA (Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young
59, 2 (2010): 495-504.
Women who breastfeed enjoy less
risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer. L. M. Gartner et
al., "Breastfeeding and the use of human milk [policy statement],” Pediatrics
115, 2 (2005): 496–506. S. Ip, et al., "Breastfeeding and maternal and infant health
outcomes in developed countries" Evidence Report
Technological Assessment 153 (2007): 1–186. K.
Rosenblatt and D. Thomas, "Prolonged lactation and endometrial cancer. WHO
Collaborative Study of Neoplasia and Steroid Contraceptives," International Journal of Epidemiology 24, 3 (1995): 499–503. P.
Newcomb and A. Trentham-Dietz, "Breast feeding practices in relation to
endometrial cancer risk, USA," Cancer
Causes Control 11, 7
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of post-partum bleeding. S.
Chua, et al., "Influence of breastfeeding and nipple
stimulation on postpartum uterine activity,” BJOG: Int’l Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology
101, 9 (1994): 804–805.
Although 65 percent of
infants are breastfed at some time (up from 54 percent over the last decade)
there is a sharp decline in any breastfeeding … Expandwhen infants are between two and three months old, often as a
consequence of mothers' return to work or school, but also because of other
cultural constraints and beliefs. Ruowei Li, “Prevalence of Breasfeeding the U.S.: The 2001 Immunization Survey, Pediatrics 111, 5 (2003): 1198-1201.