Quantifying the Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Summary of the Evidence

Natalia León-Cava, Chessa Lutter, Jay Ross, Luann Martin

The Food and Nutrition Program (HPN)
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
The LINKAGES Project
2002 June

This annotated bibliography summarizes the published literature on the following six topics related to the benefits of breastfeeding:

  • Infant morbidity because of diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, otitis media and ear infections, and other infectious diseases
  • Infant mortality because of diarrhea, acute respiratory infection, and all causes
  • Child development
  • Chronic diseases, particularly obesity, diabetes, and cancer
  • Maternal health effects, with special emphasis on breast and ovarian cancers
  • Economic benefits

The work described here attests to the enormous benefits of breastfeeding in terms of infant health, intellectual and motor development, later chronic disease risk, and maternal health. As the research base expands, and as understanding of this subject grows, the superiority of breastfeeding over alternative feeding methods for all of these outcomes becomes ever clearer. These benefits come not at a price, but with additional economic benefits for the household, the health system, employers, and society.

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