The simple act of breastfeeding has numerous health advantages for both mothers and their babies: in terms of NCD prevention, breastfeeding has long-term benefits in the form of reduced risk of chronic illness. The World Health Organization recommends early initiation of breastfeeding (within the first hour after birth) and exclusive breastfeeding (no water, other fluids or foods) for 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding for 2 years or beyond with the addition of timely, adequate, safe and properly fed complementary foods (1).

Benefits for the breastfed baby

  • As adults, breastfed infants have lower type 2 diabetes, higher IQ, and more years of schooling (2, 4). Additionally, a very recent study showed that income was enhanced by 20% (3).
  • Many—though not all—studies show a reduced risk of overweight and obesity in adults who were breastfed as infants (2).

Benefits for breastfeeding mothers

  • Reduces their risks of ovarian and premenopausal breast cancers (5, 6, 8).
  • Reduces their risk of type 2 diabetes. This could be due to improving glucose hormones (6).
  • Reduces their risk of developing hypertension and cardiovascular diseases (7, 8).
  • Helps them to lose weight, especially while their infants are being exclusively breastfed (9).


  1. WHO. Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.  Geneva: World Health Organization; 2003.
  2. Horta, B.L. et al. Long-term effects of breastfeeding: a systematic review. World Health Organization 2013
  3. Victora C.G., Horta B et al. Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil. Lancet Global Health, 2015; 3: e199—205 (Mar 03, 2015)
  4. Lutter C, Lutter R. Fetal and Early Childhood Undernutrition, Mortality, and Lifelong Health. Science, 337 (6101): 1495-1499 (Sep 21, 2012)
  5. Danforth, D.N. et al. Breastfeeding and risk of ovarian cancer in two prospective cohorts. Cancer Causes Control. 18 (5): 517-23 (2007).
  6. Martin, R.M. et al. Breast-feeding and cancer: the Boyd Orr cohort and a systematic review with meta-analysis. J Natl Cancer Inst. 97 (19): 1446-57 (2005).
  7. Stuebe, al. Duration of Lactation and Incidence of Maternal Hypertension: A Longitudinal Cohort Study. Am. J. Epidemiol. 174 (10): 1147-1158 (2011).
  8. Stuebe, A.M., E.B. Schwarz. The risks and benefits of infant feeding practices for women and their children. Journal of Perinatology 30, 155—162 (2010) 
  9. Hatsu, I.E. et al. Effect of infant feeding on maternal body composition. Int Breastfeed J. 6(3): 18 (2008).                                                                                         

 (last updated March 2015)