Breastmilk and breastfeeding benefits
Breastmilk is a complete meal for your baby, 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 they get older and have 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 breastfed babies are likely to accept new tastes when they start eating solids.
Breastmilk: a complete food
- Breastmilk contains all the nutrients your baby needs for around 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
- Both colostrum and mature breastmilk contain antibodies, good bacteria and other agents that help reduce your baby’s risk of infections and conditions like gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infections, ear infections, type-1 diabetes and type-2 diabetes, and obesity.
- The good fats in breastmilk are important for baby brain development.
- Breastfeeding is important for baby eyesight, speech, jaw and mouth development.
- Breastfed babies have a lower risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and fatal sleeping accidents.
Breastfeeding encourages skin-to-skin contact and eye contact between you and your baby. Being physically connected can help your baby 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 is environmentally friendly.
- 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, it’s good to know 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.
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 that they’re ready. This 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.