There are many benefits to breastfeeding for infants, mothers and society. Breast milk has the ideal amounts of fat, protein, sugar, and water needed to help a baby grow, but it is easier for babies to digest than formula. Its natural hormones and antibodies also may reduce the risk for numerous health conditions, including ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea, asthma, obesity, type I and II diabetes, childhood leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome.
For mothers, breastfeeding strengthens the bond between mother and child as well as saves money, burns calories, and lowers the mothers' risk for postpartum depression, type II diabetes, and certain breast and ovarian cancers.
Moreover, according to the National Women's Health Information Center, nearly 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented and $13 billion could be saved each year if 90 percent of families exclusively breastfed for 6 months.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies for the first 6 to 12 months after birth. Families are encouraged to discuss their plan with a doctor, nurse, or lactation counselor before beginning to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is not recommended for a few medical conditions, including mothers with HIV; untreated, active tuberculosis; human T-cell lymphotropic virus type I or II; or those who are undergoing radiation or antiretroviral therapies. If you have one of these conditions, be sure to consult your doctor for the best formula options.
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