The Many Benefits of Breastfeeding (Resources)

Position Statements

American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.
The AAP outlines 15 recommended breastfeeding practices and a number of statements on the role of pediatricians in promoting and protecting breastfeeding. Among other things, they recommend that babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months and that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired.

American Dietetic Association Position Statement: Breaking the barriers to breastfeeding
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association (ADA) that broad-based efforts are needed to break the barriers to breastfeeding initiation and duration. Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and breastfeeding with complementary foods for at least 12 months is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Increases in initiation and duration are needed to realize the health, nutritional, immunological, psychological, economical, and environmental benefits of breastfeeding.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians Position Paper on Breastfeeding
“Breastfeeding should ideally continue beyond infancy, but this is currently not the cultural norm and requires ongoing support and encouragement. Breastfeeding during a subsequent pregnancy is not unusual. If the pregnancy is normal and the mother is healthy, breastfeeding during pregnancy is the woman’s personal decision. If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned. Breastfeeding the nursing child after delivery of the next child (tandem nursing) may help to provide a smooth transition psychologically for the older child.”

Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). Breastfeeding support: prenatal care through the first year. Evidence-based clinical practice guideline. Washington (DC): Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN); January 2000.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Breastfeeding: Maternal and Infant Aspects. ACOG educational bulletin Number 258, July 2000.

United States Breastfeeding Policy: US Department of Health & Human Services
The Blueprint for Action introduces an action plan for breastfeeding based on education, training, awareness, support and research that supports the Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals: to increase to 75% the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies in the early postpartum period, to increase to 50% the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies through 5 to 6 months of age, and for 25% of mothers to breastfeed their babies through the end of 1 year.

Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)
From the “Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia incorporating the Infant Feeding Guidelines for Health Workers” (10 April 2003): “In Australia, it is recommended that as many infants as possible be exclusively breastfed until 6 months of age. It is further recommended that mothers then continue breastfeeding until 12 months of age—and beyond if both mother and infant wish.” “In many societies breastfeeding continues well beyond the age of 12 months, with benefit to both infant and mother.”

2004 Health Canada Recommendation on Exclusive Breastfeeding Duration
“Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months of life for healthy term infants, as breast milk is the best food for optimal growth. Infants should be introduced to nutrient-rich, solid foods with particular attention to iron at six months with continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond.”

The World Health Organization (WHO)
“Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding from birth is possible except for a few medical conditions, and unrestricted exclusive breastfeeding results in ample milk production.”

“The aim is to create an environment globally that empowers women to begin skin-to-skin with her baby and breastfeed after birth, to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and to continue to breastfeed for two years or more with age appropriate, responsive complementary feeding.”

Address of Pope John Paul II on Breastfeeding. Given on Friday, May 12, 1995 to the the participants in a study session on breast-feeding, science and society organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and The Royal Society [of Great Britain].

United States National Policies related to Breastfeeding

Comprehensive Lists of Benefits


Extended Breastfeeding Fact Sheet (this website) Breastfeeding is not just for little babies! A list of benefits for toddlers & young children, with extensive references to studies that have been done.

León-Cava, Natalia. Quantifying the Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Summary of the Evidence. Washington, D.C.: Pan American Health Organization © 2002. This publication provides scientific and epidemiological evidence in support of the WHO and UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.

PDF Breastfeeding: Impact on Health, Employment and Society from the US Congressional Research Service

Outcomes of breastfeeding versus formula feeding, compiled by Jon Ahrendsen MD FAAFP, updated June 2001 by Ginna Wall, MN, IBCLC. Includes advantages to infant, mother, and society, with references to the studies that have been done that demonstrate these effects.

Why Breastfeeding Matters by Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC.

Breastfeeding: It’s So Easy. You hear a lot about how breastfeeding is so good for your baby…and it sure is. But in the stressful days of early motherhood, maybe you’d like to know about something that’s easy for you. The good news is that breastfeeding is just as easy for Mom as it is healthy for baby! What a divine design!

Why Breast Is Best by Dr. William and Martha Sears, RN, IBCLC

Breastfeeding: Good For Babies, Mothers, And The Planet by Alicia Dermer, MD, IBCLC and Anne Montgomery, MD

A Well-Kept Secret: Breastfeeding’s Benefits to Mothers by Alicia Dermer, MD, IBCLC

General Medical Benefits

How Breast Milk Protects Newborns by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC. An article from Scientific American on the infection-fighting properties of breast milk.

Hamosh M. Breastfeeding: Unraveling the Mysteries of Mother’s Milk. Medscape Women’s Health eJournal 1996;1(5). “Even when a mother’s own supply of nutrients and energy is limited, she still is able to produce breast milk of sufficient quantity and quality to support the growth and health of her infant.” This journal article explores the complex features of human breastmilk. [you need to sign in to Medscape to read this; registration is free]

Breastfeeding: New Discoveries by George Wootan, MD. “Although medical literature is full of reports of studies concerning breast milk and breastfeeding, very little of the information is actually available to the general reading public. In this article, I will share some of the scientific findings concerning breastfeeding and the mother-child relationship during this special time.”

Breast-Feeding Best Bet for Babies by Rebecca D. Williams. An article from the US Food & Drug Administration Consumer magazine. This is an old article from October 1995 and contains some outdated information, but I often see it recommended. Check with other, up-to-date sources before using this info.

Info and Studies on Specific Benefits (not even nearly comprehensive!)

Diabetes | Economic | Intelligence | Illness | SIDS | Bones | Obesity | Cancer | Vaccinations | Psychological | Environmental | Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The Benefits of Extended Breastfeeding (this website) Breastfeeding is not just for little babies! A list of benefits for toddlers & young children, with extensive references to studies that have been done.

Chen A, Rogan WJ. Breastfeeding and the risk of postneonatal death in the United States. Pediatrics. 2004 May;113(5):e435-9.


Does Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Diabetes? by Yvonne E. Vaucher, MD, MPH

Economic Benefits

Cost benefits of breastfeeding @


Mortensen EL, Michaelsen KF, Sanders SA, Reinisch JM. The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence. JAMA. 2002;287:2365-2371. “Independent of a wide range of possible confounding factors, a significant positive association between duration of breastfeeding and intelligence was observed in 2 independent samples of young adults, assessed with 2 different intelligence tests.”

N K Angelsen, T Vik, G Jacobsen, and L S Bakketeig. Breast feeding and cognitive development at age 1 and 5 years (abstract). Arch. Dis. Child. 2001; 85: 183-188.

“Breast milk makes kids brighter, study suggests” – a news article from CNN. This is about the study that was done in New Zealand, based on a review of more than 1,000 children born in New Zealand in 1977 and followed through age 18.

Breastfeeding and Later Cognitive and Academic Outcomes– the actual journal article referenced above (PEDIATRICS Vol. 101 No. 1 January 1998, p. e9).

Pregnancy and Nursing May Make Women Smarter. Hormones released during pregnancy and nursing enrich parts of the mother’s brain involved in learning and memory, a study of animals suggests.

see also the intelligence studies listed in the Extended BF Fact Sheet

Less Illness

Exclusive Breastfeeding Protects Against Inner Ear Infections. (PEDIATRICS Vol. 100 No. 4 October 1997, p. e7) by Linda C. Duffy et al. Another journal article.

New Study Shows That Breastfeeding May Lower Risk of Respiratory Illnesses:
Relation of infant diet to childhood health: seven year follow up of cohort of children in Dundee infant feeding study. (BMJ 1998;316:21-25 (3 January)), by Andrea C Wilson et al. This study found that the probability of respiratory illness occurring at any time during childhood is significantly reduced if the child is fed exclusively breast milk for 15 weeks and no solid foods are introduced during this time, that the early introduction of solids is associated with increased body fat and weight in childhood, and that exclusive bottle feeding is associated with higher systolic blood pressure in childhood.

Human Milk Feedings and Infection Among Very Low Birth Weight Infants. (PEDIATRICS Vol. 102 No. 3 September 1998, p. e38) by Mary Ann Hylander et al. The incidence of any infection and sepsis/meningitis are significantly reduced in human milk-fed VLBW infants compared with exclusively formula-fed VLBW infants.


Breastfeeding May Protect Against SIDS. A recent study (see below) shows that babies who were breastfed by their mothers for more than eight weeks were less likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome. After eliminating other factors know to affect SIDS risk, such as sleeping position, income, maternal smoking, and the baby’s age, researchers found babies who were breastfed for less than eight weeks were between three and five times more likely to die from SIDS than babies who were breastfed for four or more months. But the study authors point out that the protective effect of breastfeeding is minor in comparison to the well-proven reduction in SIDS risk provided by putting babies to sleep on their backs.

Alm B, et al. Breast feeding and the sudden infant death syndrome in Scandinavia, 1992–95. Archives of Disease in Childhood 2002;86:400-402.

Better bone density for moms

Breastfeeding “Remodels” Mom’s Bones New mothers who choose to breastfeed not only help their babies, they could also be building healthier bones for themselves, according to a two-year CNRC study.

Breastfeeding May Protect Bone Density in Teens

See Calcium for more information and references.

Less Obesity

Toschke AM, et al. Overweight and obesity in 6- to 14-year-old Czech children in 1991: protective effect of breast-feeding. J Pediatr 2002 Dec;141(6):764-9.

Hediger ML, Overpeck MD, Kuczmarski RJ, Ruan WJ. Association Between Infant Breastfeeding and Overweight in Young Children. JAMA 2001;285:2453-2460.

Gillman MW, et al. Risk of overweight among adolescents who were breastfed as infants. JAMA 2001 May 16;285(19):2461-7.

Koletzko B, von Kries R. Are there long term protective effects of breast feeding against later obesity? Nutr Health 2001;15(3-4):225-36.

von Kries R, Koletzko B, Sauerwald T, von Mutius E. Does breast-feeding protect against childhood obesity? Adv Exp Med Biol 2000;478:29-39.

von Kries R, et al. Breast feeding and obesity: cross sectional study. BMJ 1999 Jul 17;319(7203):147-50.

Dewey KG, Heinig MJ, Nommsen LA, Peerson JM, Lonnerdal B. Growth of breast-fed and formula-fed infants from 0 to 18 months: the DARLING Study. Pediatrics 1992 89(6): 1035-1041.

Cancer Protection

Breastfeeding may protect against some forms of childhood leukemia. The new study, by researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center (published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute), found that the longer babies were breast-fed, the more they were protected. For babies breast-fed for at least one month, the leukemia risk was reduced by 21 percent, while the risk was reduced by up to 30 percent for infants breast-fed for six months or longer, the study found. [Xiao Ou Shu, Martha S. Linet, Michael Steinbuch, et. al. Breast-Feeding and Risk of Childhood Acute Leukemia. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999; 91: 1765-1772.]


Babies Handle Shots Better While Breastfeeding
Reuters Health Information Services (04/30/01); Boggs, Will

“Researchers from McGill University’s Montreal Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Quebec, discovered a link between breast-fed infants and higher pain tolerance than in their bottle-fed counterparts. The study indicated that the breast milk nutrients, taste, and the infant’s contact behavior associated with breastfeeding moderates the pain caused by a vaccination injection as long as it is given when the infant is suckling. The researchers studied the babies’ facial expressions during injections to discover the tolerance differences between receiving the shot before or after and during breastfeeding. The findings were presented Monday at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academics Society in Baltimore.”

Psychological factors

Breast-Feeding Mothers Less Likely to Abuse Kids. “The longer the mother breast-fed her infant, the less likely her risk of being reported for subsequent abuse,” Dr. Lane Strathearn of the Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston told Reuters Health. Strathearn added that breast-feeding also appeared to be related to the severity of abuse inflicted on children. The shorter the period of time women spent breast-feeding, the more likely their children were to suffer the most severe forms of neglect and physical abuse. The researcher bases his conclusions on surveys of 7,695 mothers about how long they breast-fed their infants. Time periods ranged from not at all to longer than 6 months. Data were then collected over 14 years to see if the children became the subject of any reports of abuse. These research findings were presented Wednesday, July 10, 2002 at the 14th International Congress on Child Abuse and Neglect in Denver, Colorado (see the link for more details).

Nursing Can Lower Rates of Infant Abandonment. Encouraging new mothers to breastfeed and allowing them to keep their babies in their hospital room after birth may help to lower rates of infant abandonment, Russian researchers suggest. [Lvoff NM, Lvoff V, Klaus MH. Effect of the baby-friendly initiative on infant abandonment in a Russian hospital.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2000 May;154(5):474-7.]


Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Prevention-The Key to Treating OSA/SDB- Part II by Brian G. Palmer, DDS, from Sleep Review, May/June 2003

Breastfeeding: Reducing the Risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea by Brian Palmer, DDS, from Breastfeeding Abstracts, February 1999, Volume 18, Number 3, pp. 19-20.

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