When you breastfeed, you give your baby a healthy start that lasts a lifetime. Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. Breastfeeding saves lives, money, and time.
The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breastmilk help protect babies from illness. This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby’s growing needs.
Research shows that breastfed babies have lower risks of:1,2
Your breastmilk helps your baby grow healthy and strong from day one.
Your first milk is liquid gold. Called liquid gold for its deep yellow color, colostrum (coh-LOSS-trum) is the thick first milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and includes antibodies to protect your baby from infections.
Colostrum also helps your newborn's digestive system to grow and function. Your baby gets only a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, because the stomach of a newborn infant is tiny and can hold only a small amount. (Read How do I know if my baby is getting enough breastmilk? to see just how small your newborn's tummy is!)
Sometimes, formula feeding can save lives:
Talk to your doctor before feeding your baby anything besides your breastmilk. To learn more, visit the Breastfeeding a baby with a health problem section. To learn more about donor milk banks, visit the Breastfeeding and special situations section.
Besides giving your baby nourishment and helping to keep your baby from becoming sick, breastfeeding may help you lose weight. Many women who breastfed their babies said it helped them get back to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, but experts are still looking at the effects of breastfeeding on weight loss.
Society benefits overall when mothers breastfeed.
During an emergency, such as a natural disaster, breastfeeding can save your baby's life:
For more information about the benefits of breastfeeding, call the OWH Helpline at 800-994-9662 or check out the following resources from other organizations:
All material contained on these pages are free of copyright restrictions and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Citation of the source is appreciated.
Page last updated: May 03, 2017.
Content last reviewed: January 23, 2017.