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Why choose to breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can do for your baby's health - and your own health too.

Key reasons to breastfeed

Breastfeeding provides everything they need for the first 6 months of life. After 6 months babies need food as well as milk, but breast milk is still important during the first 2 years of your baby's life and beyond.

We recommend breastfeeding because the evidence shows that breast milk is far better than formula at stopping babies from getting ill and developing certain health conditions. We also know that exclusive breastfeeding for as long as you can is best not just for babies, but for mums too. There are physical and emotional benefits for you from birth and beyond, and it's also much cheaper and better for the environment.

Why is the first feed of colostrum so important?

The first feed of colostrum lines your baby's tummy for protection against illness and infection, gives them an energy boost and helps them pass meconium - a black, sticky, tar-like substance you should see in your baby's first nappy.​

What are the advantages for your baby?

Why is breast milk so good for babies?

  • Breastfeeding is a great opportunity for skin-to-skin contact, which is very important for your newborn to build an emotional bond with you. It also keeps your baby warm, calm and comforted - and it steadies their heartbeat.
  • Breast milk changes to meet your baby's needs as they develop, and can respond to their surroundings to protect them from germs and bugs.
  • Beyond the early years, breast milk also improves brain development and your baby's future health by reducing their chances of conditions such as asthma, diabetes and obesity.

Pre-term babies

Breast milk is very important to the health of a sick, small or pre-term baby. For this reason, you may be encouraged to give your baby expressed breast milk during this vulnerable period, though this doesn't mean you have to breastfeed later on if you don't want to. Breast milk is a great source of protection for these babies, who may be recovering from conditions like jaundice. Breastfeeding also encourages better eyesight and brain development in pre-term babies.

Isn't formula just as good?

Formula milk is safe, but unfortunately it doesn't have the extra, active ingredients of breast milk that help protect your baby from illnesses.

What are the advantages for you?

  • There's a lot of evidence that breastfeeding limits your chances of breast and ovarian cancer later on in life, as well as lowering your risk of weak bones.
  • It can help you lose your baby weight by burning up to 500 calories a day. While you're pregnant, your body stores fat for feeding. Using this up will also protect against the long term risks of being overweight e.g. diabetes and heart disease.
  • Mums say that breastfeeding helps them feel really close to their baby.
  • Your breast milk is safely available at the right temperature whenever and wherever your baby is ready for a feed, making it really convenient.
  • Breast milk is, of course, absolutely free and will save you a fortune because it never runs out. As your baby feeds, your body is busy making more milk.

This article was created as part of 

Last updated: 16 May, 2019