Breastfeed if you can
Breastfeeding is good for both mother and baby. There is strong evidence that breastfeeding protects against breast cancer for mothers and encourages healthy growth for babies. If they can, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their babies.
Benefits for babies
Breastfeeding provides babies with all the nutrition they need early in life. Breastfeeding helps protect babies against infection and some chronic diseases including diabetes, contributes to improved cognitive development and helps prevent babies from living with overweight or obesity.
Living with with overweight or obesity in childhood tends to continue into adulthood, and being above a healthy weight is associated with an increased risk of 13 types of cancer. So ultimately, breastfeeding may indirectly protect babies against cancer later in life.
Benefits for mothers
Breastfeeding can lower the mother’s risk of breast cancer. There are many hormonal changes that happen while a mother is breastfeeding including a delay in menstrual periods. These hormonal changes potentially provide a reason for how breastfeeding helps reduce cancer risk.
In addition to reducing the mother’s cancer risk, breastfeeding can also lower their risk of type 2 diabetes.
Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines
The Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines recommend babies are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, but then extended to 12 months and beyond, for as long as both the child and mother want to continue.
While exclusive breastfeeding is ideal, it is recognised that breastfeeding is not always easy. Any amount of breastmilk is beneficial to the infant and helps protect the mother.
More information on breastfeeding
For information on breastfeeding and support services visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association website.