Benefits of breastfeeding

peas

Breastfeeding is a natural way to provide all the nutrition your new baby needs. It also offers important health benefits that formula can't match.

What we recommend

Woman breastfeedingKaiser Permanente and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies get nothing but breast milk for the first 6 months of life and continue to breastfeed for at least a year.

"Contrary to popular belief, almost every woman can breastfeed successfully, but we often don't get enough education and support to figure out how to do it correctly. Talk to friends and family members who have breastfed and take advantage of the classes that we offer," says Kaiser Permanente physician assistant Lisa Marquardt.

Here are some reasons to consider breastfeeding.

It's good for the baby

  • Breast milk is easiest for your baby to digest.
  • Breast milk provides antibodies that protect your baby from illnesses including ear infections, asthma, and respiratory infections.
  • Breast milk contains the right combination of vitamins and iron for your baby.
  • Holding your baby close when breastfeeding helps establish a strong bond.
  • Studies have shown that breastfed babies are at a lower risk of being obese later in life.
  • There is no risk of contamination from bacteria, chemicals, or other substances that can get into formula. Breast milk is fresh, at the right temperature, and ready to feed.

It's good for the mother

  • After your baby is born, breastfeeding helps your body recover from the stresses of pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
  • Breastfeeding moms experience less postpartum bleeding.
  • Breast milk is convenient — you have access to it almost anywhere, anytime.
  • Producing milk burns calories, which can help you return to your pre-pregnancy weight sooner. Between 300 and 500 calories per day are used for breastfeeding. By 6 weeks after delivery, women who breastfeed usually have lost an average of 4 pounds more than women who bottle feed.
  • Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a woman's risk of metabolic syndromeA service of the Kaiser Permanente News Center. Please review the privacy policy and terms of use as they differ from those of this site. and some types of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • Formula can be expensive — breast milk is free.

It's good for the planet

  • Breastfeeding is clean and green.
  • It saves water.
  • There's no wasted energy for manufacturing.
  • It doesn't create waste.

Thinking of nursing your baby? Learn the breastfeeding basics.

Sources: Adapted from copyrighted material of The Permanente Medical Group, Inc. and the American Academy of PediatricsKaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites, or mobile apps.

Reviewed by: Jeff Convissar, MD, November 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente

Prenatal programs

Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, and baby-care classes and programs near you.

Manage your pregnancy online

Use kp.org to make appointments, email your doctor, get test results, and more.

Mom-to-be tools