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The Benefits of Breastfeeding

The Health, Family, Environmental and Economic Advantages of Nursing

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Updated July 16, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Breast milk is the ideal source of food for your baby, but the advantages of breastfeeding extend far beyond nutrition.  Breastfeeding benefits the environment, the economy and most importantly the health and well-being of mothers and children throughout the world. Here are some examples of the many ways breastfeeding benefits individuals, families and our society.

Health Benefits For Infants and Children

  • Breastfed children are healthier with stronger immune systems.

  • Essential nutrients in breast milk promote the development of the brain, eyes and nervous system.

  • Breastfeeding decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

  • Breastfeeding reduces a child's risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, allergies, diabetes and childhood cancer.

Health Benefits for Mothers

Benefits For Dads and Partners

  • Formula, bottles, nipples, and bottle liners are very expensive. Even with the purchase of a few breastfeeding supplies, breastfeeding can still save a family thousands of dollars a year.

  • It's less complicated to go on outings and travel with a breastfed baby. There is not as much to pack and carry when a child does not use bottles and formula. Plus, there's no worry about running out of supplies, washing bottles or finding somewhere to warm up formula.

  • Nightime breastfeeding is easier on dads. Since there are no bottles to make in the middle of the night dads and partners may even get a little sleep.

  • Due to the health benefits that nursing provides children and their moms, breastfed families are generally healthier, even long-term. Health care costs for healthy families tend to be much lower.

Environmental Benefits

  • When a child is breastfed, there is no packaging, cans of formula, plastic liners, bottles or nipples to dispose of.

  • Water consumption is reduced when there are no bottles and nipples to wash.

  • The production of breast milk does not require electricity, gas, oil or coal. Breastfeeding leaves no pollution or industrial waste behind.
  • Economic Benefits

    • As more women choose to breastfeed, government programs that provide formula to families can save millions of dollars.

    • Breastfed children are healthier so parents take less time off from work. This gives employers the benefit of a more productive work force while they also save money on employee insurance claims.

    • When infants and children are healthy, they spend less time at the doctor's office and in the hospital each year. Increasing the breastfeeding rates could save governments billions of dollars in health care costs.

    Sources:

    American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother's Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

    American Academy of Pediatrics. Your Baby's First Year Third Edition. Bantam Books. New York. 2010.

    Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Sixth Edition. Mosby. Philadelphia. 2005.

    León-Cava, Natalia. Quantifying The Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Summary of Evidence. Pan American Health Organization. Washington, D.C. 2002.

    United States Breastfeeding Committee. Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding [issue paper]. Raleigh, NC: United States Breastfeeding Committee; 2002.

    Weimer, Jon. The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis. Food and Rural Economics Division, Economic Research Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Food Assistance and Nutrition Research Report No. 13. Washington, D.C. March 2001.

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