MS, RDN, CDN
Allison is a registered dietitian who holds a Master’s in Nutrition and Physical Fitness. She also loves helping families get creative with their wellness choices.
Free & Live Chat with the Happy Baby Experts
Read time: 5 minutes
The first 1000 days of your baby’s life, from the first day of your pregnancy up to 2 years of life, represent a critical period of growth and development. This is the best time to provide an environment that will help support life-long health, including the nutrition your baby gets.
The most complete form of nutrition for infants – breast milk – offers a range of benefits for health, growth, immunity, and development.
The World Health Organization as well as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months (and even up to two years and beyond).1,2, 3 Many studies show the long-lasting benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby.4, 5
Need some help breastfeeding? Check out latching tips here.
Breastmilk is easy to digest and provides the perfect balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and nutrients to promote the growth and development of your baby. Interestingly, breastmilk changes as your baby grows to help best meet her needs. Human milk also contains hundreds of invaluable substances, including:6
Breastfeeding not only provides your baby with tailored nutrition, but it’s available on demand, day or night, and free of charge! Though the health benefits of breastmilk go well beyond convenience and cost.
Our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants is available to chat for free! They’re here to help on our live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat now!
Scientific research suggests a substantial number of potential health benefits of breastfeeding for baby. These benefits include:
And if this wasn’t enough, breastmilk also exposes your baby to the flavors of the foods you eat. This can help her become a more adventurous eater when she herself begins to eat solids, and throughout her lifetime as well.23
Read: Learning to Love Healthy Foods, and Taste Imprinting while Breastfeeding for more information.
Your baby isn’t the only one who benefits from breastfeeding. The health benefits for the mama (you!) are also significant and include: 24
Breastfeeding can also just make life easier for you, too. At night, putting a baby to your breast is much simpler and faster than getting up to prepare or warm a bottle of formula. It’s wonderful to be able to pick up the baby and go out—whether around town or on longer trips—without having to carry a bag full of feeding equipment.
Not to mention you’re sparing the environment the creation and recycling or landfilling of so much formula packaging all while sparing your bank account!
Before giving birth, familiarize yourself with breastfeeding, latching and what to expect in the first few weeks of nursing. You’ll be swept up in lots of excitement when your baby is born, so having some initial familiarity with these concepts will help with the transition.
For more information read: Preparing to breastfeed.
Familiarize yourself with your hospital or birth center’s onsite breastfeeding support as well as support you can access once you’re back home. Supports can include lactation counselors or consultants and breastfeeding hotlines. If you are delivering in a hospital, find out if the hospital supports The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
You can also chat with our Happy Baby Experts, who are breastfeeding specialists, lactation counselors, or lactation consultants. They can help with many of these issues and help you find local lactation support if you need in-person assessment. Chat now.
Breastfeeding is a new skill for both you and your baby, whether it’s your first or your 4th! While you’ll learn and find your way together, you still may need or simply want additional support, or a home visit. It’s best to locate these helpful individuals in advance! In addition to relying on the Happy Baby Experts, seek out a local lactation counselor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Aim to breastfeed exclusively (breast milk only) until your baby is about 6 months old.
At approximately 6 months, you can introduce solid foods as a complementary feeding method while continuing to breastfeed; the benefits of breast milk continue well through the first and second years.
Breastfeeding is not always a possibility, whether you’re not able to or choose not to. Some women need or choose to provide donor milk to their babies through safe, established human milk banks such as Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). Other women opt for formula feeding. No matter which way you feed your little one, making sure your little one is well-fed and developing appropriately is the priority.
Speak to a Happy Baby Expert who can help guide and support you in making the best feeding plan for you and your family. Chat now.
We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond. Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday – Friday 8am-8pm (EST), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-4pm (EST). Chat Now!
Read more about the experts that help write our content!
Getting the right nutrition while breastfeeding
Major allergens: What to know when pregnant and breastfeeding
1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics March 2012, 129 (3) e827-e841. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827
2. World Health Organization. Continued breastfeeding for healthy growth and development of children. February 2019. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.who.int/elena/titles/continued_breastfeeding/en/
3. World Health Organization. Infant and Young Child Feeding. June 2021. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding
4. NIH National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What are the Benefits of Breastfeeding? July 2018. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/benefits
5. Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD003517. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003517. pub2. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003517.pub2/full
6. Olivia Ballard, Ardythe L. Morrow. Human Milk Composition: Nutrients and Bioactive Factors. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 2013;60(1):49-74. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031395512001678
7. Caroline J. Chantry, Cynthia R. Howard and Peggy Auinger. Full Breastfeeding Duration and Associated Decrease in Respiratory Tract Infection in US Children. Pediatrics February 2006, 117 (2) 425-432. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/2/425
8. Nishimura T, Suzue J, Kaji H. Breastfeeding reduces the severity of respiratory syncytial virus infection among young infants: a multi-center prospective study. Pediatr Int. 2009;51(6):812–816. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19419530/
9. Bartick M, Reinhold A. The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics. 2010;125(5). Accessed 28 June 2021 https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/e1048
10. GreerFR, SichererSH, Burks AW, American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy and Immunology. Effects of early nutritional interventions on the development of atopic disease in infants and children: the role of maternal dietary restriction, breastfeeding, timing of introduction of complementary foods, and hydrolyzed formulas. Pediatrics. 2008;121(1):183–191. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/1/183
11. Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Trikalinos TA, Lau J. A summary of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s evidence report on breastfeeding in developed countries. Breastfeed Med. 2009 Oct;4 Suppl 1:S17-30. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19827919/
12. Lee H, Park H, Ha E, et al. Effect of Breastfeeding Duration on Cognitive Development in Infants: 3-Year Follow-up Study. J Korean Med Sci. 2016;31(4):579-584. doi:10.3346/jkms.2016.31.4.579. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4810341/
13. Lopez D., Foxe J., Mao Y., Thompson W., Martin H., Freedman E. Breastfeeding Duration Is Associated With Domain-Specific Improvements in Cognitive Performance in 9–10-Year-Old Children. Frontiers in Public Health. 2021(9):434. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.657422/full
14. Duijts L, Ramadhani MK, Moll HA. Breastfeeding protects against infectious diseases during infancy in industrialized countries. A systematic review. Matern Child Nutr. 2009 Jul;5(3):199-210. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19531047
15. Duijts L, Jaddoe VW, Hofman A, Moll HA. Prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk of infectious diseases in infancy. Pediatrics. 2010 Jul;126(1):e18-25. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20566605/
16. Salone L, Vann W, Dee L. Breastfeeding: An overview of oral and general health benefits. Journal of the American Dental Association. 2013 Feb;144(2):143-151. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(14)60615-2/fulltext
17. OwenCG, MartinRM, Whincup PH, Smith GD, Cook DG. Effect of infant feeding on the risk of obesity across the life course: a quantitative review of published evidence. Pediatrics. 2005;115(5):1367–1377. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/115/5/1367
18. Rito A, I, Buoncristiano M, Spinelli A, Salanave B: Association between Characteristics at Birth, Breastfeeding and Obesity in 22 Countries: The WHO European Childhood Obesity Surveillance Initiative – COSI 2015/2017. Obes Facts 2019;12:226-243. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.karger.com/Article/Fulltext/500425#
19. Rosenbauer J, Herzig P, Giani G. Early infant feeding and risk of type 1 diabetes mellitus-a nationwide population-based case-control study in pre-school children. Diabetes Metab Res Rev. 2008 Mar-Apr;24(3):211-22. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17968982/
20. Lund-Blix NA, Dydensborg Sander S, Størdal K. Infant Feeding and Risk of Type 1 Diabetes in Two Large Scandinavian Birth Cohorts. Diabetes Care. 2017 Jul;40(7):920-927. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28487451/
21. BenerA, HoffmannGF, Afify Z, Rasul K, Tewfik I. Does prolonged breastfeeding reduce the risk for childhood leukemia and lymphomas? Minerva Pediatr. 2008;60(2):155–16. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18449131/
22. KwanML, BufflerPA, Abrams B, Kiley VA. Breastfeeding and the risk of childhood leukemia: a meta-analysis. Public Health Rep. 2004;119(6):521–535. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15504444/
23. Beauchamp GK, Mennella JA. Flavor perception in human infants: development and functional significance. Digestion. 2011;83 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):1-6. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3202923/
24. Centers for Disease Control. About Breastfeeding: Why it Matters. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/about-breastfeeding/why-it-matters.html
25. Liu J, Leung P, Yang A. Breastfeeding and active bonding protects against children’s internalizing behavior problems. Nutrients. 2013;6(1):76-89. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3916850/
26. Weaver JM, Schofield TJ, Papp LM. Breastfeeding duration predicts greater maternal sensitivity over the next decade. Dev Psychol. 2018;54(2):220-227. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6708079/
27. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding Benefits Your Baby’s Immune System. Healthychildren.org. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Breastfeeding-Benefits-Your-Babys-Immune-System.aspx
28. Hanson LA. Breastfeeding provides passive and likely long-lasting active immunity. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 1998 Dec;81(6):523-33. Accessed 28 June 2021 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9892025/
29. KrauseKM, LoveladyCA, Peterson BL, Chowdhury N, Østbye T. Effect of breast-feeding on weight retention at 3 and 6 months postpartum: data from the North Carolina WIC Program. Public Health Nutr. 2010;13(12):2019–2026. Accessed 28 June 2021 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20519049/
30. Jarlenski MP, Bennett WL, Bleich SN, Barry CL, Stuart EA. Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women. Prev Med. 2014;69:146-150. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312189/
31. StuebeAM, WillettWC, Xue F, Michels KB. Lactation and incidence of premenopausal breast cancer: a longitudinal study. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(15):1364–1371. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19667298/
32. Babic A, Sasamoto N, Rosner BA, et al. Association Between Breastfeeding and Ovarian Cancer Risk. JAMA Oncol.2020;6(6):e200421. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2763398
33. Sylvia H.Ley, Jorge E.Chavarro, Mengying Li, Wei Bao, Lactation Duration and Long-term Risk for Incident Type 2 Diabetes in Women With a History of Gestational Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Care Apr 2020, 43 (4) 793-798. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/43/4/793
34. Schwarz EB, Brown JS, Creasman JM, et al. Lactation and maternal risk of type 2 diabetes: a population-based study [published correction appears in Am J Med. 2011 Oct;124(10):e9]. Am J Med. 2010;123(9):863.e1-863.e8636. Accessed 28 June 2021. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2930900/
Causes and symptoms of mastitis
Understanding the supply and demand...
Did you know that your baby’s taste...
Learn how to achieve a good latch to...
How to set yourself up for success...
Preparation is key to stay...
Common causes of nursing strikes
Feeding needs vary depending on...
Learn when to hand express...
Learn when nipple shields might be...
For some breastfeeding mamas, work or...