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."


Barmak Kusha
Succinct and comprehensive. I especially like the early reminder that breast milk is clean!
Sara Holtz
Thanks for reading my posting. Sometimes the most obvious messages get overlooked.
Tara Kimbason
As a physician I worked in labor and delivery where mothers are encouraged to breastfeed within first hour of life - it's great for both mother and neonate.
Pamela Lurie
Thank you for writing this article. It's great to see so many people sharing information about the benefits breastfeeding, especially during World Breastfeeding Week. We all need to keep working together so that women know about the support available to have successful breastfeeding experiences.
Annie McLenahan
This is a great message to get out there. Natural, affordable and healthy. As a breast feeding mom, I also enjoy the emotional bond while nursing my infant.
Molly Fitzgerald
And it's affordable! Thanks for drawing well deserved attention to a 'low-tech' response to preventing unnecessary morbidity and mortality of under 5's.
Sara Holtz
Molly, thanks for reminding us that the low-tech (and most affordable) responses often deserve more attention
Very informative. As a healthcare provider and a member of a hospital nutrition committee, I work with dieticians that specialize as Lactation consultants. There is a growing need for the information that has been shared in this blog. More women are choosing to breastfeed their children and, as noted from the benefits listed in this blog, it is easy to see why.
Stacey Ayuthia
Great Article. I breastfeed my 3 children while working full time for a construction firm. It was tough during the work day and work travel committments, but the best choice for my children and me. Plus, it was so easy when I was home with the babies. I don't know why more people don't make the effort to breastfeed right away and continue on.
While there is no question that breast truly is best for mom and baby, I find the case of infant feeding by HIV+ mothers particularly interesting, There are certainly a lot of factors in play when deciding what the best course of action in this case, particularly in areas where ARVs are not available, affordable, etc. The WHO came out with new guidelines in 2010, but I still think we haven't reached a consensus on this topic.
Sara Holtz
Holly, I agree with you that we haven't reached a consensus, and it may not be possible to reach a consensus because every situation has not only biomedical considerations but also social, cultural, financial, and other dimensions. Moms living with HIV should consult their health care provider.
Monica H.
Espeically like the fact that breastfeeding can lower rates of obesity. How does this occur?
Sara Holtz
Producing milk burns calories. And for babies that exclusively breastfeed for their first six months of life and then continue breastfeeding through their second birthday, mom is producing a lot of milk and therefore burning lots of calories
Marianne Vakiener
Mother-to-mother support is another important aspect of increasing the rate and duration of breastfeeding. Many mothers find info and encouragement online; many mothers also benefit from face-to-face peer support groups (such as La Leche League).
Happy to hear that Management Sciences for Health highlighted breastfeeding in 10 Steps Toward Child Survival! Increasing breastfeeding rates both in the U.S. and globally would improve health outcomes and save lives.

Add new comment