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Making the breastfeeding decision

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Around three quarters of new mums start breastfeeding their babies.

Research about breastfeeding continues to show important health benefits for baby and mother. Mother's milk can offer the baby a wide range of protective effects, including reducing the risk of respiratory and ear infections, and diarrhoea and vomiting needing hospital care, reduced chance of developing eczema, and possibly a reduced risk of SIDS (sudden- infant death syndrome). Breastfeeding also makes obesity less likely and so lessens the risk of developing diabetes later in life.

Even if a mother breastfeeds for just a few weeks after her baby is born, she is giving her baby an enormous health boost with positive effects that can be seen almost immediately, as well as long- term benefits that may help her child remain healthier well into adulthood.

The Department of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of your baby’s life. Even when your baby moves on to solid food, breast milk will continue to offer benefits.

Breastfeeding is good for mum too

Doctors say breastfeeding is also beneficial to mothers, with both long and short term benefits.

In the short term, breastfeeding increases the production of oxytocin, a hormone that not only encourages milk production, but also helps a mother feel more relaxed and calm.

Studies also show that the effect of breastfeeding hormones on the uterus may help reduce a mother's risk of postpartum haemorrhage (massive uterine bleeding). Breastfeeding may even help protect some women from postnatal depression.
In addition, nursing your baby for even a few months can reduce your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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