The evidence is well-established, for both the benefits to mother and baby of breastfeeding, and the significant risks of not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has some of the most wide-reaching and long lasting effects on your baby's health and development, more than anything else you can do for her.
Babies who breastfeed at a lower risk of
- Respiratory infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome
- Type 1 & 2 diabetes
- Allergies (e.g. asthma, lactose intolerance)
Benefits to mothers
- The longer mothers breastfeed, the greater their protection against breast and ovarian cancer, and hip fractures in later life.
- Recent evidence has demonstrated an association between prolonged breastfeeding and postmenopausal risk factors for cardiovascular (CV) disease.
- The World Cancer Research Fund includes breastfeeding as one of 10 recommendations to reduce the risk.
- These illnesses all represent the greatest threats to women’s health across all ages.
Click here to see an overview of the evidence, including links to the most significant studies.
Breastfeeding also provides a unique opportunity to build strong emotional bonds between mother and baby. The hormones responsible for controlling milk production also induce strong maternal feelings. Strong early relationships and a stable, calm, loving environment are all conducive to babies’ healthy emotional, social and physical development, through production of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin acts like a fertiliser for the brain, promoting the growth of neurons (brain cells) and the connections between them, enabling babies to grow into secure, happy children. For more information, consult our new leaflet, Building a happy baby.