Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large (World Health Organisation, 2017).
Evidence shows that babies who are breastfed have a reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) compared to those who are formula fed (NHS Choices, 2015). Breast fed babies are less likely to develop a range of diseases and conditions throughout their life, (Robinson and Fall, 2012) and have fewer infections, including: lower respiratory tract infection; gastrointestinal infection and otitis media.
Research has shown benefits for breastfeeding mothers and is associated with a reduction in the risk of breast and ovarian cancers,osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and obesity (NHS Choices, 2016). A study by Gutman et al, (2009) suggested a positive association between breastfeeding and parenting capability, particularly among single and low-income mothers.
Current national and international guidance recommends exclusive breastfeeding for newborns (breast milk only and no other liquids or solids) for the first 6 months of infancy.
Facts and figures
For more details read our breastfeeding facts and figures (PDF document.)