Health Department

The Importance of Breastfeeding

The Importance of Breastfeeding

Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

Breast-feeding your newborn child can have many lasting positive health effects on your baby. One of the nation’s goals for Healthy People 2020 is to increase the number of mothers who breastfeed their child at birth to 85 percent, up to 6 months to 60 percent, and up to 12 months to 35 percent.

The latest data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System in 2008 shows that in Missouri we are far below the average for mothers who breast-feed. According to the data, only 56 percent of mothers try to breastfeed their child at birth and only 18 percent of mother’s breast-feed their child up to 6 months.

There are many benefits to baby and to mom from breast-feeding. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, the benefits to your baby from breast-feeding include a reduced risk of infections, obesity, allergies, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), just to name a few. A mother’s milk contains nutrients and antibodies that protect infants and cannot be duplicated in formula.

The Department of Health and Human Services states that there are many benefits of breast-feeding for mom. By breast-feeding your newborn child it releases hormones that promote relaxation in the mother.

Mom, also will burn calories by breast-feeding. A woman can burn 500-800 calories a day by just making milk, which can help in losing the weight gained during pregnancy. Research has also shown that women who breast-feed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. This may be due to suppressed ovulation and low estrogen.

Breast-feeding your newborn child can also benefit society. Recent research shows if 90 percent of newborn mothers breastfed exclusively for six months, it could prevent nearly 1,000 deaths among infants and the United States would also save $13 billion per year. Breast-fed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.

If you would like more information on breastfeeding and community resources, contact the Independence Health Department at 325-7185.

*Information provided by,, Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System, and the Independence Health Department