What is breast-feeding?
Breast-feeding is feeding
a baby milk from a mother's breasts. You can feed your baby directly at your
breast. You can also pump your breasts and put the milk in a bottle so that you
or others can feed your baby breast milk. This lets you give your baby the
benefits of breast milk even when you can't be there to feed your baby. Women
who work or need to be away from their babies may have the option to both
breast-feed and sometimes bottle-feed. Some women bottle-feed with pumped
breast milk, or formula, or a combination of both.
breast-feeding for 1 year or longer. But your baby benefits from any amount of
time that you breast-feed.
How do you feel about breast-feeding?
know your own thoughts and feelings about breast-feeding. This is an important
part of making this decision.
- Do you want to breast-feed? With the right
teaching and support, most women who want to breast-feed are able to do so.
Talk to your doctor if you
have had breast surgery or have been treated for
breast cancer. Some surgeries can limit your ability to produce breast milk.
Before your baby is born, plan ahead and learn all you can about
breast-feeding. This helps make breast-feeding easier.
- Do you know
someone who can teach you about breast-feeding? Breast-feeding is a natural
process, but it can take time and practice for both you and your baby to do it
well. Doctors, nurses, and lactation specialists can all help. So can friends,
family, and breast-feeding support groups.
- Are you comfortable
with breast-feeding? If you are modest or have other concerns about
breast-feeding, a lactation specialist can help. For example, she can show you
how to breast-feed in public without showing your breast.
- Is anyone
else trying to convince you one way or the other? Do what is right for you and
your baby, and don't let others make this decision for you.
does your work or school situation affect your decision? Many women are able to
provide breast milk even when they are away from their baby. You can get a
breast pump and learn to pump your breasts. But it is important to think about
the practical issues ahead of time, such as finding a place to pump your breast
milk, and where to store it.
- Is the cost of formula a concern?
Formula can be expensive, and breast milk is free. You may save money if you
breast-feed your baby.
What are the health benefits of breast-feeding?
Breast milk is the perfect food for your baby. It is the only food your
baby needs until about 4 to 6 months of age. You do not need to give your baby
other food, water, or juice, except for
vitamin D each day.
lowers your child's risk for some illnesses and diseases. These include:
- Diarrhea and upset stomach. Breast-fed babies
have fewer bouts of diarrhea than babies who are not
Urinary tract infections.
- Illnesses that
affect the respiratory tract or breathing.
- Less chance of needing
hospitalization because of infection in the first year of life.1
Breast-feeding may also protect against other health
problems later on, such as
eczema, and high blood pressure.2, 3, 4, 5
You may recover from pregnancy, labor, and
delivery sooner when you breast-feed. For example, breast-feeding makes your
body release a hormone called
oxytocin. This hormone helps your uterus bleed less
and return to its normal size after pregnancy. Breast-feeding may also lower
your risks for breast cancer and diabetes later on in life.6, 7
Are there risks from not breast-feeding?
a baby formula does not usually cause any health problems. Formula provides
good nutrition for babies. But it does not give your baby the extra protection
against infection that breast milk does.
If you both breast- and
bottle-feed your baby from birth, your baby may have problems switching between
sucking from your breast and the bottle. This is called nipple confusion. You
may be able to avoid this problem if you feed your baby only from the breast
for the first few weeks of life before you give your baby a bottle.
Are there risks from breast-feeding?
mothers of newborns are able to breast-feed safely. But talk to your doctor
about risks to your baby if:
If you breast-feed, do not eat
fish that may contain mercury. It can be harmful when it is passed to your
baby through your breast milk.
A small number of women who
breast-feed can get a breast infection called
mastitis. It causes fever and breast pain. If you have
mastitis, your doctor will give you antibiotics and have you continue to
If you need more information, see the topic