It's never too early to start thinking about how you're going to feed your baby. But you do not have to make up your mind until your baby is born.
Some of the benefits of breastfeeding are:
- your breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby
- breast milk protects your baby from infections and diseases
- breastfeeding provides health benefits for you
- breast milk is available for your baby whenever your baby needs it
- breastfeeding can build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby
Formula milk does not provide the same protection from illness and does not give you any health benefits.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for your baby
Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for your baby, lasting right into adulthood.
Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.
Breastfeeding can help to reduce your baby's risk of:
- infections, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
- diarrhoea and vomiting, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- cardiovascular disease in adulthood
Some studies have also found that breastfeeding for at least 6 months may reduce your baby's chance of getting childhood leukaemia. But more research is needed into this.
Giving nothing but breast milk is recommended for about the first 6 months (26 weeks) of your baby's life.
After that, giving your baby breast milk alongside solid foods for as long as you and your baby want will help them grow and develop healthily.
Breast milk adapts as your baby grows to meet your baby's changing needs.
Health benefits of breastfeeding for you
Breastfeeding and making breast milk also has health benefits for you. The more you breastfeed, the greater the benefits.
Breastfeeding lowers your risk of:
Got a breastfeeding question?
Sign in to Facebook and message the Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend chatbot for fast, friendly, trusted NHS advice anytime, day or night.
Get Start4Life pregnancy and baby emails
Sign up for Start4Life's weekly emails for expert advice, videos and tips on pregnancy, birth and beyond.