Breast is Best for Baby and Mom

Breast is Best for Baby and Mom

International breastfeeding symbol

This week the global health community celebrates World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). Breast milk is nutritious, clean, available, natural, and does not require special preparation or handling. Let’s take a moment to consider some of the numerous benefits of breastfeeding to baby and mom:

  1. Breastfeeding is the world's most effective solution to reducing child deaths
  2. Breastfeeding could save the lives of nearly 1 million children per year
  3. Breastfeeding reduces deaths to pneumonia and diarrhea
  4. Breastfeeding and nursing promote closeness for baby and mom
  5. Nursing reduces mom’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life
  6. Nursing contributes to reduction in maternal mortality by helping moms space their births and prevent unintended pregnancy
  7. Nursing helps lower rates of obesity among women

In addition to the individual benefits to baby and mom, breastfeeding can help the global community achieve Millennium Development Goals 4 (reduce child mortality), 5 (reduce maternal mortality), and 1 (reduce poverty and hunger).

Sadly many babies and mothers do not benefit from breastfeeding. Currently only 38 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life, prompting the World Health Assembly to set the ambitious goal of "increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates in the first six months up to at least 50 percent by 2025".

Management Sciences for Health is contributing to this global goal by promoting early and exclusive breastfeeding in its maternal, newborn, and child health-related efforts. Furthermore, we put "exclusive breastfeeding" at the top of our 10 Steps Toward Child Survival.

To maximize the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and moms:

  1. Babies should breastfeed within the first hour of life
  2. Infants should continue breastfeeding exclusively for their first six months of life
  3. Children should breastfeed for two or more years while receiving complementary foods

Spread the word about the power of breastfeeding for babies and moms. (On social media, use hashtags and .)

Sara A. Holtz, technical advisor at MSH, is mom to twins and a singleton who exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life and continued breastfeeding past their second birthdays.

Correction, August 7, 2013: This post originally contained "intended pregnancy" instead of "unintended pregnancy" due to a typo. We have corrected the post accordingly: "Nursing contributes to reduction in maternal mortality by helping moms space their births and prevent unintended pregnancy."