Value of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed babies. Breastfeeding contributes to normal human health, nutrition, physical and psychological development.
Breast milk meets all of a baby's nutritional requirements for around the first six months of life.
Breast milk is more than food. Breast milk is a living substance providing antibodies, living cells, enzymes, growth factors and hormones which can't be replicated.
Nothing else can equal breast milk in infant growth and development outcomes.
Breastfeeding is extremely important for the short and long term health of infants. Breastfeeding also helps the mother's recovery and reduces her risk of developing some diseases.
Breastfeeding helps with bonding and attachment between mothers and babies.
Breastfeeding is economical, convenient and safe. It needs no preparation. It's safe and clean and always at the right temperature.
Value of breastfeeding to society
Breastfeeding makes a difference for more than mother and baby.
Breastfeeding creates a healthier community. This means less illness and savings for the health care system.
Breastfeeding leaves no environmental footprint. No packaging. No waste.
Breast milk has significant economic value. Breast milk supplied by Australian women annually is estimated to be worth at least $3 billion annually.1
We want to see breastfeeding valued by the whole society.
Risks associated with not breastfeeding
There are health risks and financial costs associated with not breastfeeding. Artificial feeding increases the risk of developing these health conditions.2
For full term infants:
- Acute ear infection
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
- Hospitalisation for lower respiratory tract infection in the first year of life
- Asthma, with or without family history
- Childhood obesity
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Acute lymphocytic leukaemia
- Acute myelogenous leukaemia
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Health of breastfed babies
Breastfeeding contributes to normal infant development. When compared with artificially fed babies, breastfed babies have improved visual acuity, psychomotor and cognitive development and better jaw shape and development.2
Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from a range of health problems in infancy and later in life.
Breastfed infants are less at risk of gastroenteritis, respiratory illness and acute ear infection.3
Breastfeeding also reduces the risk or severity of these conditions in infancy.2
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing the following conditions in later life.2
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease risk factors including blood pressure and total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol
- Obesity in later life
Health of mothers
Breastfeeding promotes faster maternal recovery from childbirth and women who have breastfed have reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancers in later life.2
Breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among women with a history of gestational diabetes.2
Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of fractures due to osteoporosis.2
Breastfeeding also has other benefits for the mother.2
- Helps mother regain her pre-pregnancy body weight.
- Lower likelihood of pregnancy while exclusively breastfeeding due to lactational amenorrhoea.
 Ref - Smith J "Lost Milk?" : Counting the Economic Value of Breast Milk in Gross Domestic Product. Journal of Human Lactation published online 12 July 2013.
 National Health and Medical Research Council 2013. Infant Feeding Guidelines. Canberra: National Health and Medical Research Council.
 Australian Health Ministers' Conference 2009, The Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy 2010-2015. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, Canberra
In Australia, current breast milk production levels exceed $3 billion annually
Are you a parent needing help?
Click here to visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association website for information and support