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Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is the feeding of babies and young children with milk from a woman's breast.[1]


Health professionals recommend that breastfeeding begin within the first hour of a baby's life and continue as often and as much as the baby wants.[2][3]


During the first few weeks of life babies may nurse roughly every two to three hours, and the duration of a feeding is usually ten to fifteen minutes on each breast.[4]

Frequency in older children

Older children feed less often.[5]


Mothers may pump milk so that it can be used later when breastfeeding is not possible.[1]


Breastfeeding has a number of benefits to both mother and baby, which infant formula lacks.[3][6]

Benefits for baby

Deaths of an estimated 820,000 children under the age of five could be prevented globally every year with increased breastfeeding.[7]

Effect on illness

Breastfeeding decreases the risk of respiratory tract infections and diarrhea, both in developing and developed countries.[2][3] Other benefits include lower risks of asthma, food allergies, and type 1 diabetes.[3]

Obesity and cognitive development

Breastfeeding may also improve cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood.[2]

Breastfeeding in developed world

Mothers may feel pressure to breastfeed, but in the developed world children generally grow up normally when bottle fed.[8]

Benefits for mother

Benefits for the mother include less blood loss following delivery, better uterus shrinkage, and decreased postpartum depression.[3] Breastfeeding delays the return of menstruation and fertility, a phenomenon known as lactational amenorrhea.[3]

Long term benefits for mother

Long term benefits for the mother include decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.[3][7] Breastfeeding is less expensive than infant formula.[9][10]

Introduction of foods

Health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), recommend breastfeeding exclusively for six months.[2][3][11] This means that no other foods or drinks other than possibly vitamin D are typically given.[12]

Duration of breastfeeding

After the introduction of foods at six months of age, recommendations include continued breastfeeding until one to two years of age or more.[2][3]


Globally about 38% of babies are only breastfed during their first six months of life.[2] In the United States in 2015, 83% of women begin breastfeeding and 58% were still breastfeeding at 6 months, although only 25% exclusively.[13]


Medical conditions that do not allow breastfeeding are rare.[3] Mothers who take certain recreational drugs and medications should not breastfeed.[14]

Non-contraindicated drugs

Smoking, or drinking limited amounts of alcohol or coffee, are not reasons to avoid breastfeeding.[15][16][17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Breastfeeding and Breast Milk: Condition Information". 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 27 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 "Infant and young child feeding Fact sheet N°342". WHO. February 2014. Archived from the original on 8 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. (March 2012). "Breastfeeding and the use of human milk". Pediatrics. 129 (3): e827–41. doi:10.1542/peds.2011-3552. PMID 22371471. Archived from the original on 5 August 2015.
  4. "How do I breastfeed? Skip sharing on social media links". 14 April 2014. Archived from the original on 27 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  5. "What is weaning and how do I do it?". 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  6. Ip S, Chung M, Raman G, Trikalinos TA, Lau J (October 2009). "A summary of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's evidence report on breastfeeding in developed countries". Breastfeeding Medicine. 4 Suppl 1: S17–30. doi:10.1089/bfm.2009.0050. PMID 19827919.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Victora CG, Bahl R, Barros AJ, França GV, Horton S, Krasevec J, Murch S, Sankar MJ, Walker N, Rollins NC (January 2016). "Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect". Lancet. 387 (10017): 475–90. doi:10.1016/s0140-6736(15)01024-7. PMID 26869575.
  8. Lawrence RA, Lawrence RM (1 January 2011). Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession. Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 227–228. ISBN 978-1-4377-0788-5.
  9. "Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. American Academy of Pediatrics. Work Group on Breastfeeding". Pediatrics. 100 (6): 1035–9. December 1997. doi:10.1542/peds.100.6.1035. PMID 9411381. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012.
  10. "What are the benefits of breastfeeding?". 14 April 2014. Archived from the original on 10 August 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  11. Kramer MS, Kakuma R (August 2012). "Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding". The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 8 (8): CD003517. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD003517.pub2. PMID 22895934.
  12. "What are the recommendations for breastfeeding?". 14 April 2014. Archived from the original on 14 August 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  13. "Results: Breastfeeding Rates". CDC. 1 August 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2018.
  14. "Are there any special conditions or situations in which I should not breastfeed?". 19 December 2013. Archived from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
  15. "Breastfeeding and alcohol". NHS Choices. NHS. 21 December 2017. Archived from the original on 1 August 2016.
  16. "Breastfeeding and diet". NHS Choices. NHS. 26 March 2018. Archived from the original on 7 August 2016.
  17. "Tobacco Use | Breastfeeding | CDC". 21 March 2018. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.