Breastfeeding is best for babies – it’s nature’s perfect food! Your body is extremely clever, providing your baby with all the essential nutrients in exactly the right balance for healthy growth and development.
Breast milk is the best food for your baby and provides all the nutrients they need to grow until around 6 months of age when solid foods are introduced. The World Health Organisation recommends that babies are exclusively breast fed until 6 months of age when solid foods are introduced, and then that breastfeeding is continued along with solid foods to 2 years of age or longer. When baby first starts solids, breast milk is still the most important food for baby and should be offered before solid foods.
Breast milk is the ideal food for baby because it:
- Provides all your baby needs to eat or drink for the first 6 months
- Contains all the essential nutrients in the right balance
- Contains antibodies, enzymes, growth factors which helps the immune system protect baby against infections and illnesses like colds and tummy bugs
- Is easy for baby to digest, because it is the perfectly designed food
- Builds an emotional bond between mother and baby
- Can reduce baby’s chance of developing allergies, obesity and type 2 diabetes later in life
Breast milk has benefits for Mum too:
- Convenient and requires no preparation
- Readily available at the right temperature
- It’s free
- Research has shown that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer
- Breast feeding can also help your uterus return to the normal size after birth sooner
- Uses up calories and can make it easier to return to pre-pregnancy weight
Any breastfeeding is beneficial for your baby and the longer you can breastfeed for the better. If you need help with breastfeeding, there is a lot of support out there. Everyone has a role to play in encouraging and promoting a breastfeeding friendly environment. If you're having trouble and need some breastfeeding help, talk to your midwife, child health nurse, or contact a lactation consultant.
If it is not possible to breast feed baby or use expressed breast milk, you will need to use a suitable infant formula. Infant formula is a breast milk substitute and is the only safe and suitable alternative for babies under 12 months of age.
National Health and Medical Research Council (2012). Infant Feeding Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
The materials published on this website are of a general nature and have been provided for informational purposes only. Always consult your medical practitioner or a qualified health provider for any further advice in relation to the topics discussed.