Breastfeeding: Overview

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Human milk is the ideal nutritional food during the first year of life for all infants, both term and pre-mature. It contains essential nutrients to support their growth and development.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the infant include:

  • Antibodies (immune factors) that protect against infection, such as respiratory tract infections and ear infections
  • Protection against gastrointestinal tract disorders, allergic diseases, obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, childhood leukemia
  • Reduced rates of child abuse and neglect

Benefits of breastfeeding for the mother include:

  • More rapid involution (shrinkage) of the uterus
  • Decreased bleeding after delivery and during the postpartum period
  • Reduced postpartum depression
  • Decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers
  • Increased postpartum weight loss
  • Decreased risk in development of type 2 diabetes
  • Convenience and cost savings
  • Fewer days of work missed due to a sick child

Breastfeeding mothers are encouraged to eat a healthy diet and refrain from tobacco use.


Contraindications to Breastfeeding

Some conditions of the mother and/or infant may make breastfeeding inadvisable, or contraindicated.

Maternal conditions that may preclude, or rule out, breastfeeding include:
  • HIV-positive status,
  • Human Y-lymphotropic virus (HTLV-1)
  • Untreated brucellosis
  • Active tuberculosis
  • Active herpes simplex lesions on the breasts (Expressed or pumped milk is acceptable.)
  • Maternal active alcohol or substance (for example, marijuana) use
Although all medications appear in small amounts in breast milk, some maternal medications are contraindications for breastfeeding:
  • Cancer drugs
  • Radioactive agents
  • Amphetamines (medications used to stimulate the central nervous system)
  • Ergotamines (migraine medications)
  • Statins (cholesterol medications)
Certain metabolic disorders of the infant may also preclude breastfeeding:
  • Galactosemia
  • Phenylketonuria