While breastfeeding has benefits for all involved, whether you do it for hours or years, many of the benefits of breastfeeding directly support your baby’s health and happiness for years to come. Here are just a few of the benefits for baby (most of these are gained with pumped breast milk as well):
Customized nutrition. Breast milk changes throughout your baby’s life (from colostrum to transitional milk to mature milk) and day-to-day, as your baby goes through illness, teething, and growth spurts. Especially if your baby is breastfeeding directly from your body, your milk is custom, adaptive nutrition for their ever-changing needs.
Less infections and illness. Breastfed babies tend to have less risk of infection and illness, in the first year and beyond. Because of the immune factors in human milk, breastfeeding can help your little one avoid everything from preterm complications (like necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC) to COVID-19 to ear infections.
Safer sleep. Sleep with babies can be quite challenging, no matter what that looks like for your family. Breastfeeding (especially exclusively) helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Your baby won’t necessarily sleep more—whether they are breastfed, formula-fed, or both—but you can hopefully sleep a little easier knowing that breastfeeding is protective against sleep-related death.
Brain development. Breastfeeding, whether because of the physical closeness with your baby or the contents of your milk (or both!) is known to have significant positive effects on long-term brain development, especially for preterm infants.
Lifetime health benefits. From lower risks for a variety of health issues—everything from diabetes to asthma to cancer—breastfeeding has lifetime health benefits for your child. Some of these benefits are dose-dependent, that is breastfeeding is more beneficial the more milk your baby gets, and others apply no matter how much (or little) you breastfeed.
Curious about the benefits of breastfeeding for your own health? Check out Benefits of Breastfeeding: Mom Edition.