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Breastfeeding - for a healthy baby and mum

Significant health results are related to how babies are fed.

Here's why breastfeeding is important.


We have known for a long time that breastfeeding is important when it comes to health for both you and your baby and it's important for many reasons. 

Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed babies. Normal, however, doesn’t always mean the most common way to feed babies, but it does mean that breastfeeding is the biological norm. So this is why the health results of any other way of feeding a baby have to be compared to breastfeeding.   

  • The longer you exclusively breastfeed your baby within the first 6 months, the lower their health risks.  
  • The longer you breastfeed all up, the lower the health risks for you and your baby. 

The following are health outcomes where there is convincing scientific evidence. This list includes results from studies where partial and exclusive breastfeeding are included.

For each of the following, there is a dose-response relationship between breastfeeding and the health result. This means that the less breastfeeding, the higher the risks.

For baby, not being breastfed (or being breastfed for a shorter length of time), increases the risk of:

  • gastrointestinal infections 

  • respiratory infections 

  • ear infections 

  • SIDS

  • necrotising enterocolitis in premature babies 

  • sepsis in premature babies

  • leukaemia 

  • dental malocclusions 

  • overweight and obesity 

  • lower IQ. 

For mum, not breastfeeding, or breastfeeding for less time, increases the risks of: 

  • breast cancer 

  • ovarian cancer 

  • type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure 

  • heart disease and stroke

© Australian Breastfeeding Association February 2023


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