Benefits of Breastfeeding


Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses. Breast milk is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate nutrition.

Benefits for Mom

Many mothers feel fulfillment and joy from the physical and emotional communion they experience with their child while nursing. These feelings are augmented by the release of hormones, such as:

  • Prolactin: Produces a peaceful, nurturing sensation that allows you to relax and focus on your child.
  • Oxytocin: Promotes a strong sense of love and attachment between the two of you.

Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a natural (though not fail-safe) method of birth control (98% protection in the first six months after birth). It also reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, postpartum depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Benefits for Baby

Beyond the immediate benefits for babies, breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. They are less likely to have type-II diabetes and perform better in intelligence tests. Breast milk contains antibodies that contribute to long-term benefits for baby that cannot be replicated with infant formula.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. At six months, solid foods, such as mashed fruits and vegetables, should be introduced to complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more. In addition:

  • breastfeeding should begin within one hour of birth
  • breastfeeding should be "on demand", as often as the child wants day and night; and
  • bottles or pacifiers should be avoided.

Added Bonuses

There are quite a few practical advantages to breastfeeding as well— bonuses the entire family can appreciate.

  • Human milk is much less expensive than formula. During nursing you will need, at most, an extra 400 to 500 calories daily to produce sufficient milk for your baby, while formula can cost between $4 and $10 per day, depending upon the brand, type (powdered versus liquid), and amount consumed.
  • At night, putting a baby to your breast is much simpler and faster than getting up to prepare or warm a bottle of formula. (Your partner can make night feedings even easier by changing the baby and bringing her to you for nursing.)
  • It’s wonderful, too, to be able to pick up the baby and go out—whether around town or on longer trips—without having to carry a bag full of feeding equipment.
  • Breastfeeding is also good for the environment, since there are no bottles to wash or formula cans to throw away.

Breastfeeding Support

Breastfeeding has to be learned and many women encounter difficulties at the beginning. This is completely normal. After you deliver, a lactation consultant will visit your room to offer education and lactation support.

After you leave the Hospital, you are welcome to call South County Health’s Warm Line, staffed by nurses and lactation consultants who are available for support. Call the Warm Line at 401-788-1226 or email us at lactation@southcountyhealth.org if any questions or concerns arise about nursing or about you or your baby’s health. If your situation requires immediate attention, please seek medical care.

Moms with newborns are encouraged to join South County Health’s New Moms’ Group, a casual, social setting for conversation and education on a variety of topics, including breastfeeding, baby sleeplessness, colic, parental sleep deprivation, postpartum stress, and more. The club is led by a certified childbirth educator and an experienced OB nurse. Certified lactation consultants are also available. Learn more >

First in RI designated Baby-Friendly

South County Hospital was the first hospital in the state to receive the Baby-Friendly designation. This recognition was earned through a comprehensive, detailed and thorough journey toward excellence in providing evidence-based, maternity care with the goal of achieving optimal infant feeding outcomes and mother/baby bonding. 

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding.  The BFHI assists hospitals in giving all mothers the information, confidence, and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so.