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Benefits of breastfeeding: 23 wins

While most of us know breastfeeding is good for our babies and want to do it, perhaps we didn’t know quite how good it is. Here are 23 reasons why it’s worth trying to breastfeed and seeking support if you think it might help.

1. You know when a friend makes you a cup of coffee exactly how you like it? Breast milk is like that for your baby. It changes over time to make sure it’s still perfect all the way along (Victora et al, 2016; NHS, 2017).

2. You can help to reduce the risk of your baby getting infections and diseases by breastfeeding (NHS, 2017).

3. Breastfeeding can be really handy. Whether you’re on a long-haul flight, in deepest Peru or just in your local park with a crying baby who needs food now. You can breastfeed anywhere with no ‘stuff’ required (NHS, 2017).

4. Breastfeeding is one way of bonding with your baby. Like with bottle feeding, it gives you time to spend just the two of you, relaxing on the sofa with your favourite TV show (NHS, 2017).

5. Breastmilk fact: Breast milk is a bioactive fluid (Martin et al, 2016). It contains proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals plus antibodies to fight germs. It also contains hormones that help your baby’s development (Victora et al, 2016).

6. If you can breastfeed your baby, they have a lower risk of ear, respiratory and gastro-intestinal infections and diarrhoea (Victora et al, 2016; Bowatte et al, 2015). Meaning a healthier baby and fewer trips to the hospital for you both (NHS, 2017).

7. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (Victora et al, 2016).

8. Premature babies who can drink their mum’s breastmilk have a lower risk of necrotising enterocolitis (Colaizy et al, 2016; NHS 2016), a potentially dangerous bowel disorder.

9. It’s not all about the baby: breastfeeding reduces your risk of obesity and of type 2 diabetes (Horta et al, 2015; Victora et al, 2016).

10. Major plus: fewer children who had breastmilk as babies develop childhood leukemia.

11. Random one but babies who receive breastmilk have a lower risk of dental malocclusions. This is where the upper teeth bite over the lower ones (and in some cases the jaw too), it can cause tooth decay (Victora et al, 2016).

12. And they keep coming… breastfeeding may reduce the risk of childhood asthma and allergic rhinitis, an inflammation inside the nose caused by allergens (Lodge et al, 2015).

13. Breastfeeding could help your baby enjoy more foods. The flavour of breastmilk changes, while formula remains constant so by the time it comes to weaning, your baby could be more used to different flavours.

14. When your six month plus baby is ill, they might be comforted by a breastfeed, which then means they’ll probably recover more quickly.

15. You can battle food allergies with breastfeeding. Continuing to breastfeed your baby after they’ve started solids may protect them from being allergic to certain foods (Baby Centre 2017).

16. If your baby gets a cold, you'll then get the cold virus from them but your immune system will make antibodies to fight the virus. Then through your milk, those antibodies will help your baby fight the infection themselves (Baby Centre 2017).

17. Breastfeeding is free. Let’s not underestimate the importance of this one. No bottles to buy, no formula, no sterilising equipment.

18. Breastmilk contains long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. They help your baby’s all-important brain to develop (Baby Centre 2017).

19. Back to you again: your own risk of ovarian or breast cancer plummets if you can breastfeed your baby (Victora et al, 2016; NHS, 2017).

20. While there’s no evidence breastfeeding will help you shed weight anywhere else, it will definitely help your uterus return to its normal size.

21. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of your baby wheezing and developing severe eczema (Baby Centre 2017).

22. Mums who can breastfeed won’t see the return of their periods quite so soon. This can be handy as it may assist with birth spacing (Victora et al, 2016).

23. With no packaging or plastic, breastfeeding doesn't have an impact on the environment (Kent, 2015).

Further information

NCT supports all parents, however they feed their baby. If you have questions, concerns or need support, you can speak to a breastfeeding counsellor by calling our helpline on 0300 330 0700, whether you are exclusively breastfeeding or using formula milk. Breastfeeding counsellors have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising and will offer relevant information and suggestions. You can also find more useful articles here.

Our helpline offers practical and emotional support in many areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of our Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

National Breastfeeding Line (government funded): 0300 100 021.