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Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding:

Saves Lives. Currently there are 9 million infant deaths a year. Breastfeeding saves an estimated 6 million additional deaths from infectious disease alone.

Provides Initial Immunization. Breastmilk, especially the first milk (colostrum), contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents that protect the infant against disease. Breastmilk also aids the development of the infant's own immune system.

Prevents Diarrhea. Diarrhea is the leading cause of death among infants in developing countries. Infants under two months of age who are not breastfed are 25 times as likely to die of diarrhea than infants exclusively breastfed. Continued breastfeeding during diarrhea reduces dehydration, severity, duration, and negative nutritional consequences of diarrhea.

Provides Perfect Nutrition. Breastmilk is a perfect food that cannot be duplicated. It is more easily digested than any substitute, and it actually alters in composition to meet the changing nutritional needs of the growing infant.

Maximizes a Child's Physical and Intellectual Potential. Malnutrition among infants up to six months of age can be virtually eradicated by the practice of exclusive breastfeeding. For young children beyond six months, breastmilk serves as the nutritional foundation to promote continued healthful growth. Premature infants fed breastmilk show higher developmental scores as toddlers and higher IQs as children than those not fed breastmilk.

Promotes the Recovery of the Sick Child. Breastfeeding provides a nutritious, easily digestible food when a sick child loses appetite for other foods. When a child is ill or has diarrhea, breastfeeding helps prevent dehydration. Frequent breastfeeding also diminishes the risk of malnutrition and fosters catch-up growth following illness.

Supports Food Security. Breastmilk provides total food security for an infant's first six months. It maximizes food resources, both because it is naturally renewing, and because food that would otherwise be fed to an infant can be given to others. A mother's milk supply adjusts to demand; only extremely malnourished mothers have a reduced capacity to breastfeed.

Bonds Mother and Child. Breastfeeding provides physiological and psychological benefits for both mother and child. It creates emotional bonds, and has been known to reduce rates of infant abandonment.

Helps Birth Spacing. In developing countries, exclusive breastfeeding reduces total potential fertility as much as all other modern contraceptive methods combined.

Benefits Maternal Health. Breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of fatal postpartum hemorrhage, the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and of anemia. By spacing births, breastfeeding allows the mother to recuperate before she conceives again.

Saves Money. Breastfeeding is among the most cost-effective of child survival interventions. Households save money; and institutions economize by reducing the need for bottles and formulas. By shortening mothers' hospital stay, nations save foreign exchange.

Is Environment-friendly. Breastfeeding does not waste scarce resources or create pollution. Breastmilk is a naturally-renewable resource that requires no packaging, shipping, or disposal.