Breastmilk has everything a growing baby needs in exactly the right amounts and is easy to digest. Research shows that a baby who is not breastfed is more likely to suffer from health problems, both as a child and throughout adulthood.
Can anyone breastfeed?
Breastfeeding is the normal, natural way to feed and care for a baby and babies are born expecting to breastfeed. Women all over the world, regardless of their diet, produce the right type and amount of milk to nourish their growing babies, whether it’s one or more!
Women who are not able to exclusively breastfeed can choose to partially breastfeed, using supplements as needed so their baby still benefits from breastmilk. For those facing breastfeeding challenges, skilled help is available from LLL Leaders.
- Stem cells which are used by the baby. Stem cells create and repair the body, and they are a key part of treatments for many illnesses and diseases. 
- Human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) – sugars which are indigestible to the baby but feed friendly bacteria lactobacilli and bifidobacteria (among others). These are crucial to the development of a healthy gut microbiome, which kickstarts the immune system, promotes good digestion, and reduces the growth of unfriendly bacteria. An imbalanced microbiome could affect lifetime health and increase the risk of all non-infectious diseases. 
- Antibodies which are specifically tailored to bacteria and viruses found in your environment. Just 20 mins after being exposed to an infectious agent a mother is producing the right antibody in her milk. [1, 3]
- Immune cells, cytokines and antimicrobial factors which all help support the baby while his immune system is still developing (approx. 6 yrs). 
- Oxytocin – a hormone which reduces stress and promotes feelings of well-being in mum and baby. 
- Alpha-lactalbumin – a protein with pain relief properties. 
- Extra melatonin at night which helps mum and baby go back to sleep quickly. 
Studies show your baby will be healthier throughout their life if they are breastfed. Infant formula increases a child’s risk of:
SIDS, Cancer, Obesity, Diabetes, and Allergies. 
In addition to an increased risk of:
Asthma, Autoimmune disorders including multiple sclerosis and coeliac disease, Cardiovascular disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, Dental caries, Diarrhoea, Ear infections, Epilepsy, Gastroenteritis, High blood pressure and high cholesterol, Hypersensitivity and inflammation, Liver disease, Mental health issues, Necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), Respiratory infections including bronchiolitis, and Urinary tract infections. [5, 6]
Is a breastmilk substitute
Infant formula is a highly processed food: a base of cow’s milk, goat’s milk or soy, with vegetable oils and other additives. Breastmilk is a complete and perfect food for your baby – nature has been refining your breastmilk for hundreds of millions of years. 
Can never accurately replicate human milk
Breastmilk is a living tissue, just like blood. It changes throughout feeds and from feed to feed to match your baby’s needs. We can’t accurately synthesise artificial breastmilk. Many breastmilk components have unique structures that can’t be made in a factory.
Cow’s milk for calves, breastmilk for human babies
Cow’s milk is designed to help calves grow fast and put on lots of muscle. Human breastmilk builds intelligent human brains with gradual physical growth.
Reasons to breastfeed
Good for Mum
- Helps the uterus return to normal size after giving birth.
- Is the natural way to be close to your baby and encourages a strong mother-baby bond. The mothering hormones prolactin and oxytocin help you care for your baby by lowering your blood pressure and helping you to relax physically.
- Aids in natural child spacing by delaying the return of periods.
Breastfeeding reduces your risk of: 
- Breast and ovarian cancer;
- High blood pressure and diabetes;
- Cardiovascular disease;
- Autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis;
- Endometriosis and endometrial cancer;
Nice for dads and partners
- Breastfeeding is free; no need for tins of formula, bottles or sterilising equipment.
- Your breastfed baby is likely to stay healthier, so fewer trips to the doctor or hospital.
- Nice smells! A breastfed baby’s nappy hardly smells.
- No need to prepare bottles over night.
- While mum is breastfeeding you can bond with your baby in other fun ways: cuddles, baths, nappy changes, walks, playtimes and carrying your baby in a sling.
Perfect for baby
- Breastmilk is important for brain and nervous system development. 
- Breastmilk kills cancer cells in the lab. 
- Breastfeeding has been shown as effective pain relief during painful procedures. 
Breastfeeding is convenient
Breastmilk is always ready at the right temperature – anytime, any place, anywhere. Your baby can feed whenever he’s hungry and get just what he needs. No sterilising, no making up bottles, no washing up! Keeping your baby close at night makes night-feeding easier too.
Breastfeeding is eco-friendly
Breastmilk is the most environmentally friendly baby food imaginable! Bottle feeding produces pollution and waste disposal problems due to the manufacture, packaging, transport and preparation of the formula and bottles.
Position is important
Getting a baby positioned and latched on comfortably at the breast is the key to enjoyable feeds and making enough milk. Breastfeeding is normal and natural, but it’s an art that can take both mum and baby a bit of time and practice to learn. One of the best ways to find out about breastfeeding is to watch and learn from other breastfeeding mothers.
You can breastfeed anywhere
Babies often want to breastfeed when people around them are eating and drinking – and why not? Breastfeeding mothers are protected under UK equality law. Some women may feel unsure about breastfeeding in front of others initially, but soon become more confident. If you wish, it’s very easy to be discreet while breastfeeding – there are lots of clothes designed especially for breastfeeding.
A woman’s body changes naturally during pregnancy. The shape of her breasts change regardless of whether she breastfeeds or not. Breastfeeding helps mums lose weight quickly after the birth.
Breastfeeding can carry on…
Breastmilk is still a nutritious food as your baby grows into toddlerhood. Mum and baby can continue breastfeeding for as long as they want.
Written by Bronwyn Davies, Philippa Pearson-Glaze and mothers of La Leche League GB.
Positioning & attachment
Safer Sleep and The Breastfed Baby
Supporting a Breastfeeding Mother
Birth and breastfeeding
Diabetes and breastfeeding
Smoking and breastfeeding
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. LLLI. London: Pinter & Martin, 2010.
Mother-Baby Experiences of Nurturing, Colson, S. 2000.
- Wendy Jones, BSc, MSc, PhD, MRPharmS, Breastfeeding Network
Copyright LLLGB 2019