Hesperian Health Guides

Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 16: Breastfeeding

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HealthWiki > A Book for Midwives > Chapter 16: Breastfeeding


Breast is best
a woman breastfeeding a baby while lying on her side.
Breastfed babies are healthier.

Breast milk has all the nutrition a baby needs. It also gives many other benefits:

  • Breast milk protects
    the baby against many illnesses including diarrhea, pneumonia, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Sucking on the breast, close to the mother, helps the baby feel safe.
  • Breast milk is always fresh, clean, and ready to eat.
  • Breastfeeding helps the mother's womb contract after birth and slows bleeding.
  • Breastfeeding can prevent the mother from getting pregnant again right away.
  • Breastfeeding helps protect the mother against brittle bones (osteoporosis) and some kinds of cancer later in her life.
  • Breastfeeding costs nothing — it is free!

Baby formula can be dangerous

Companies that sell formula and other breast milk substitutes will say almost anything to make people buy them. They may say substitutes are modern, or clean, or as safe and nutritious as breast milk. But milk substitutes do not have all the benefits of breast milk and, for most babies, they are not safe.

a thin, sick-looking baby having diarrhea while lying next to a bottle.
Bottle-fed babies
are more likely to
get sick and die.
  • Formula is less nutritious.
  • Formula is harder for the baby to digest.
  • Bottle-feeding requires extra clean water and fuel to boil the water and bottles. If the bottles or water are dirty, bottle- feeding can cause dangerous diarrhea that can lead to death.
  • Formula costs a lot of money.
  • Some families try to make formula last longer by adding extra water. This makes babies grow more slowly and get sick more.


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