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.
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.
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.