An infant breastfed exclusively for more than 4 months has over 70% fewer lower respiratory tract infections in her first year of life. The severity of bronchiolitis is also reduced as is the incidence of otitis media, serious colds and throat infections. There is a protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding for 3-4 months in reducing the incidence of asthma, atopic dermatitis and eczema.
Gastrointestinal tract infections are also reduced by over 60% and the benefits last for 2 months after cessation of breastfeeding. The risk of inflammatory bowel disease is reduced as is the risk for obesity, childhood leukemia and lymphoma. Breastfeeding is also associated with a 36% decrease in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and it has been calculated that more than 900 infant lives per year may be saved in the United States if 90% of mothers exclusively breastfed for 6 months.
Neurodevelopmental outcomes are also improved for infants exclusively breastfed for 3 months or longer. Breastfed infants have improved outcomes of intelligence scores and teacher’s ratings. These same benefits are seen for preterm infants as well as a lower rate of serious infections.
For the mother there is decreased postpartum blood loss and a lower frequency of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding for longer than 12 months is associated with a 28% decrease in breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
To help you with breastfeeding we do not support policies following delivery that interfere with early skin-to-skin contact or the supplement of water, glucose water or formula without a medical indication. We also do not restrict the amount of time an infant can be with her mother or feeding duration. We also do not endorse unlimited pacifier use. Pacifier use during the newborn period can be helpful for specific medical indications such as pain reduction and for calming purposes for drug exposed infants. Pacifier use should be delayed until breastfeeding is well established at 3 to 4 weeks after birth.