- Healthy living
- Babies and toddlers
- Benefits of breastfeeding
- Getting ready to breastfeed
- How to breastfeed
- Stages of breastfeeding
- Problems with breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding in public and at work
- When you or baby are sick
- Baby’s health and nutrition
- Formula feeding
- Your health and nutrition
- When baby is ready for other foods
- Sex and pregnancy
- Special situations
- Supporting a breastfeeding mother
- Where to find help
- Feeding guidelines
- Food-related choking
- Introducing solids
- Sick baby
- Sudden Unexpected Death in Infancy
- Vitamin D
- Emergency management
- Environmental health
- Food and physical activity
- Sexual health
- Stop the spread of disease
- Teeth and gums
The benefits of breastfeeding
There’s nothing more natural and healthy for your baby than being breastfed.
Breastfeeding helps lay the foundations of a healthy life for a baby – and it’s good for your health and wellbeing too.
Benefits for baby
- Breast milk is easily digested. It’s immediately available and always fresh.
- If you eat a healthy diet, then your breast milk provides baby with a perfect blend of nutrients and protective antibodies (although it doesn’t replace the need for immunisations).
- Breastfeeding helps your baby grow and develop physically and emotionally.
- Breastfeeding and breast milk help protect your baby from chest infections, meningitis, ear infections and urine infections.
- Breastfeeding decreases the risk of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI, also known as sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS). It’s also linked to lower hospitalisation rates.
- Breastfeeding and breast milk may protect baby from chronic tummy problems and some childhood cancers. They may also be less likely to get allergies, eczema or asthma.
- Breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of obesity and may help reduce the risk of diabetes in later life.
Benefits for mothers
- Breastfeeding helps you recover from birth.
- Skin-to-skin contact is a wonderful way to start intimately connecting with your baby.
- Breastfeeding reduces your risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
- Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and hip fracture later in life.
- Breastfeeding may help you lose weight gained during pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding can be your motivation to start living a healthier lifestyle, and cut down on smoking or drinking.
- Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended until your baby is around six months old – this means that since birth, your baby has only had breast milk (from the breast or expressed) and prescribed medicines.
- If your baby is exclusively breastfed, then breast milk meets all their fluid requirements. They don’t need water or any other drinks or food until they’re around six months old.
- After six months, exclusive breastfeeding is not enough for your baby to grow and develop. You should introduce complementary foods (solids) and also continue breastfeeding until they’re at least one year or older.
When you’re away from your baby, try to ensure they’re fed with expressed breast milk rather than infant formula.
Find out more from the Ministry
Breastfeeding Your Baby
Available from HealthEd in English and five other languages.
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization provides guidelines on infant feeding.
La Leche League
The website of the New Zealand branch of the La Leche League, an international organisation who promote breastfeeding.