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The importance of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is important for the health of baby and mum. It is also important for your family and society. This fact sheet explains why it is important.

Remember...

  • Breastmilk gives your baby a healthy start in life.
  • It is the only food your baby needs for about the first 6 months.
  • Breastmilk is always fresh, clean and the right temperature.
  • Your breastmilk will change over time to suit your baby's changing needs.
  • Breastmilk helps protect your baby from some illnesses.

Breastfeeding is more than food for your baby. When you hold your baby close during breastfeeding, your baby can feel, smell and see you. This helps you build a close, loving bond between you and your baby.

Breastfeeding may take some time to get used to. It may even be difficult at the start. However, the importance to you and your baby is worth it. Having help from family and friends will help you to start and keep breastfeeding.

Why is breastfeeding important for your baby?

You can give your baby something that no one else can. Your breastmilk is all the food and drink that your baby needs. Breastmilk changes each feed to suit your baby’s needs and stage of growth. Babies who are breastfed are also sick less often than babies who are not breastfed.

Babies who are not fed breastmilk have higher risk of:

  • infections in the bladder or kidney
  • stomach and bowel illness (including diarrhoea)
  • chest infections
  • ear infections
  • allergies (including eczema and asthma)
  • SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome—cot death)
  • some childhood cancers
  • obesity, diabetes and heart disease later in life.

Breastfed babies have fewer trips to hospital for infections.

Why is breastfeeding important for mothers?

Breastfeeding your baby is also important for your own health. It can:

  • help your body return to its pre-pregnant state faster
  • lessen the chance of cancer in the ovaries or breasts
  • lessen the chance of osteoporosis (weak bones) when you are older
  • lessen the chance of you developing type 2 diabetes later in life if you had gestational diabetes in pregnancy
  • helps you build a close bond with your baby.

Clean, safe and natural

  • Breastmilk is always available and is fresh, clean and safe.
  • It saves you time as you do not need to mix formula and clean bottles.
  • It is always ready for your baby.
  • It has no waste and is good for the environment.
  • Breastmilk does not cost money. Less illness also means less health care costs.

Resources for parents, families and carers

Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Government

Growing Strong—Breastfeeding: good for Baby, good for Mum (PDF, 637kB), Queensland Government

Breastfeeding—know your rights, Queensland Human Rights Commission

Brochure: Giving your baby the best start—the best foods for infants (PDF, 351kB), Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Newborns nutrition, Australian Government

Raising Children Network—Breastfeeding videos, Australian Government

Healthdirect Australia—Breastfeeding, Australian Government

Booklet: Breastfeeding and postnatal care, New South Wales Government —available in English, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Farsi, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi and Tamil languages

Booklet: Breastfeeding your baby (PDF, 3.6MB), New South Wales Government

Brochure: Breastfeeding tips for new mothers (PDF, 110kB), New South Wales Government

Breastfeeding your baby, Victoria Government

Brochure: Breastfeeding (PDF, 1.3MB), Victoria Government

Breastfeeding, South Australia Government

Related content

Breastfeeding: How do I start breastfeeding?

Preparing for breastfeeding

Acknowledgements

This fact sheet is consistent with the National breastfeeding strategy 2010–2015.

Information is drawn from:

  • Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service 2015, Child health information: Your guide to the first 12 months.
  • National Health and Medical Research Council 2012, Infant feeding guidelines.
  • Preventative Health 2008, Growing Strong: Feeding you and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Preventative Health 2010, Breastfeeding and your baby, Queensland Health.
  • Queensland Maternity and Neonatal Clinical Guidelines Program, 2010, Breastfeeding initiation.

This fact sheet is also the result of input and effort from many health professionals in Queensland. Their assistance with the content is greatly appreciated.

This information is provided as general information only and should not be relied upon as professional or medical advice. Professional and medical advice should be sought for particular health concerns or events. Best efforts have been used to develop this information, which is considered correct and current in accordance with accepted best practice in Queensland as at the date of production. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not accept liability to any person for the information provided in this fact sheet nor does it warrant that the information will remain correct and current. The State of Queensland (Queensland Health) does not promote, endorse or create any association with any third party by publication or use of any references or terminology in this fact sheet.