Health Topics

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is good for both infants and mothers. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants. As an infant grows, breast milk changes to meet the infant’s nutritional needs. Breastfeeding can also help protect the infant and mother against certain illnesses and diseases.

Benefits to Infants

Infants who are breastfed have a lower risk of:

  • Asthma.

  • Obesity.

  • Type 1 diabetes.

  • Severe lower respiratory disease.

  • Acute otitis media (ear infections).

  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting).

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) for preterm infants.

Benefit to Mothers

Mothers who breastfeed their infants have a lower risk of:

  • Breast cancer.

  • Ovarian cancer.

  • Type 2 diabetes.

  • High blood pressure.

Frequently Asked Questions

When should a mother avoid breastfeeding (contraindications)?

Breast milk provides the best nutrition for most infants, including premature and sick newborns. However, there are rare exceptions when breast milk or breastfeeding is not recommended. Learn more here:  https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/contraindications-to-breastfeeding.html  Your health care provider will be able to answer any questions you may have about whether breastfeeding is safe for your baby.

How long should a mother breastfeed?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer. 

The longer an infant is breastfed, the greater the protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases. The more months or years a woman breastfeeds (combined breastfeeding of all her children), the greater the benefits to her health as well.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be introduced to foods other than breast milk or infant formula when they are about 6 months old. To learn more about infant and toddler feeding, visit https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/InfantandToddlerNutrition/index.html

Where can mothers find more information about preparation and storage of breast milk?

Find CDC guidelines and FAQs about how to maintain the safety and quality of expressed breast milk here: https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm 

Is it safe for families to buy breast milk on the internet?

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration recommend avoiding Internet-based milk sharing sites and instead recommend contacting milk banks. Research has demonstrated that some milk samples sold online have been contaminated with a range of bacteria.

Nonprofit donor human milk banks, where processed human milk comes from screened donors, have a long safety record in North America. All member banks of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) must operate under specific evidence-based guidelines that require extensive testing and processing procedures as well as self-reported health information and a health statement from both the donor’s health care provider and the infant’s health care provider. Because most of the milk from milk banks is given to hospitalized and fragile infants, milk banks may not have enough to serve healthy infants at all times. To find a human milk bank, contact HMBANA

What legal rights do breastfeeding mothers have?

Breastfeeding Laws

All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. Visit the National Conference of State Legislatures to learn more about federal and state laws that protect and support breastfeeding.

Workplace Laws

The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to support breastfeeding mothers to express breast milk for 1 year after each child’s birth by providing mothers with reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom space to express their breast milk. Visit the United States Department of Labor to learn more.

Travel Laws

Air travelers are permitted by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to bring more than 3.4 ounces of breast milk, formula, and juice in their carry-on baggage and it does not need to fit within a quart size bag. Ice packs, freezer packs, and other accessories needed to keep the liquid cool are also allowed in carry-on bags. All liquids and partially frozen accessories are subject to being screened by X-ray. Visit the TSA to learn more about traveling with breast milk, formula, and juice. For tips on travel and breastfeeding, visit Travel Recommendations for the Nursing Mother.