The Benefits of Breastfeeding

As recently as the 1970's, the benefits of natural milk for a baby were not known. In fact, there was a point in time when many believed that feeding a baby formula was healthier than breastfeeding. Had this article been written in that time period, it likely would have taken form as a debate about which method was superior. However, after decades of studies there no longer seems to be any debate as to the superiority of breastfeeding. 

What many people even today may not be aware of, is just how beneficial natural milk is. Some of the benefits are relatively short term and more easily understood, for example

  • Protection against childhood infections including: 72% reduction in respiratory tract infections, 64% reduction in gastrointestinal infections, 63% reduction in severe cold, ear, & throat infections.
  • Better survival rate in the first year including a 36% reduction in the risk of SIDS

It is believed that the mother passes on her mature antibodies and enzymes to her baby in her milk which arms the baby to fight off infection.

There are other studies that show lifelong benefits, yet how breastfeeding provides this benefits, is not as clear. These benefits include.

  • Reduction in allergic diseases
  • Reduction of asthma
  • Lower chance of developing obesity
  • Lowered risk of Type1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • Lowered risk of eczema
  • Improved cognitive development
  • And a 52% reduction in the chance of developing celiac disease, if the baby is still being breastfed when introduced to foods containing gluten.

Whether a baby acquires these health benefits, is dependent on how long the baby is breastfed for. In some cases, studies showed the baby benefited when nursed  at a minimum for the first 4 months, in other cases, 6 months. 

Additionally, many of the studies indicated that the the improved outcomes for breastfed babies was only if the baby was exclusively breastfed, but if breastfeeding was supplemented with formula, the results were not the same.


National Institute of Health

The Cleveland Clinic

American Academy of Pediatricians