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Fact Sheet - Breastfeeding
Babies who are not exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months are more likely to be obese, have type 1 diabetes, asthma, allergies, and certain types of childhood cancer, suffer from colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses, and have sick visits to the doctor.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services has identified breastfeeding promotion as a high priority health objective for the nation. The 2010 health objectives set a goal of increasing the proportion of women who breastfeed their infants to 75% in the early postpartum period, 50% at 6 months of age, and 25% at 1 year old.
Mothers who breastfeed have fewer absences from work due to infant illness than mothers who formula feed.
Mothers who breastfeed enjoy a reduced risk of developing osteoporosis and are less likely to develop breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers.
A nursing mother's milk supply can go up or down to meet the demands made upon it. Frequent nursing or pumping can help make more milk.
Human milk provides a boost to the immune system. Breast milk contains antibodies specific to illnesses encountered by each mother and baby.
Infants who are exclusively breastfed for at least 4 months are half as likely as formula-fed infants to have ear infections in the first year after birth. Otitis media (middle ear infection) is three to four times more prevalent in formula-fed infants.
In 1997, researchers found that the longer mothers breastfed their children, the less likely the children would be overweight or obese. Also, if mothers breastfed their children for only three to five months, a 35% reduction was found in obesity in the children.
Breastfeeding reduces a mother's risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis.
Exclusive breastfeeding generally delays the mother's ovulation (and menstruation) after pregnancy by 20 to 30 weeks, and can be an important factor in child spacing.
Mothers of breastfed infants require less time off from work to care for sick children and make fewer visits to the pediatrician. It has been estimated that 2 to 4 billion health care dollars could be saved annually in the United States if all women breastfed their infants for as little as 12 weeks.
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