Photo credit: OxenWhite Photography

From the day she is born to her first birthday, breastfeeding gives baby the very best start to life. And the benefits reach far into the future.

Breastmilk is nature’s perfect nutrition. It is tailor-made for babies providing all the vitamins, proteins and fats that they need for the first six months—no other liquids or foods needed!

Breastmilk even provides powerful antibodies that fight off illness and build babies’ immunity as well as probiotics that aid a baby’s digestion and help build a healthy digestive tract. And amazingly, the composition of mother’s milk changes and adapts as baby grows.

There are tremendous health benefits to breastfeeding for both mom and baby. Studies show breastfed babies experience fewer bouts of diarrhea, ear infections and eczema. Breastfeeding offers protection against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and can lower the risk of obesity, diabetes, and even childhood leukemia. Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Almost all mothers can breastfeed—if given the right support, advice and encouragement, as well as skilled assistance to resolve any problems.

Breastfeeding also offers extraordinary developmental benefits for baby. It creates a special bond between mother and baby which helps shape baby’s emotional development. And incredibly, several studies have linked breastfeeding to higher IQ later in a child’s life.

For these reasons, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend babies are exclusive breastfed (meaning adding no other food, formula or water) for the first 6 months and then introducing solid foods at 6 months while continuing breastfeeding for 1 year.

By 6 months of age, a baby’s nutritional requirements increase to support their rapid growth and development. For this reason, it is essential to ensure babies are getting nutrient-rich whole foods in addition to breastmilk. From 6 months to 1 year, babies should be experimenting with a wide variety of flavors and foods, especially fruits, vegetables and animal-source foods such as beef and poultry.

What You Need to Know

  • Breastmilk has all the nutrition a baby needs in the first 6 months of life—no other food or liquid needed.

  • Breastfeeding has powerful short-term and long-term health benefits for both moms and babies.

  • New evidence is emerging which shows that breastfeeding—especially for longer durations—is linked to higher IQ

  • Babies should start solid foods at 6 months. Introduce foods one at a time but provide lots of variety, especially fruits and vegetables.

Photo credit: Sean Dreilinger