19 Surprising Facts About Breastfeeding
There’s a reason we call breast milk “liquid gold”—it’s an incredible substance that nourishes, adapts to baby’s needs and even protects against illness. Here are some breastfeeding facts that are quite surprising!
Facts about Breastfeeding Rates
- In the US, over 80% of babies start out breastfeeding, according to the CDC.
- The AAP recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life, but only 25% of moms meet that goal.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends continuing breastfeeding until 2 years of age. In many cultures, kids nurse until 4 years of age! (Learn more about extended breastfeeding here!)
- 57.6% of babies are fed through a combination of breastmilk and formula by six months of age.
- Black parents face the greatest breastfeeding challenges—only 64% start out breastfeeding and most stop after 6.5 weeks. Why so early? Black mothers tend to go back to work sooner after birth, get less information about breastfeeding from healthcare providers, and have less access to professional support like lactation consultants. (Read more about the racial disparities in breastfeeding.)
- Sweden has one of the highest rates of breastfeeding at 98%! This could be partially due to the most generous parental leave policies in the world.
- In 2018, it finally became legal to breastfeed in public across all 50 states!
Facts about Breast Milk
- In the first few days after birth, breasts produce colostrum: Nutrient-rich milk full of calcium, proteins, minerals, and antibodies that babies need in their first few days of life.
- Breast milk is amazingly adaptable! If you or your baby are sick, the number of antibodies and white blood cells in your breastmilk increase to fight off infection. Talk about cool!
- Yawnnnn…..Breast milk makes babies sleepy! Towards the end of the day, breast milk contains more serotonin—a hormone that helps babies sleep.
- Eat a lot of garlic one day and feel like you can smell it in your milk? Diet can change the smell and taste of your breast milk—which helps get your baby familiar with flavors.
Facts about Breastfeeding Parents
- Breastfeeding burns a ton of calories—somewhere between 400 and 600 per day—no wonder you’re so hungry!
- Breastfeeding makes your brain happy! While you’re breastfeeding, your brain releases prolactin and oxytocin (the “feel good” hormones) which help you bond with Baby.
- Parents who successfully breastfeed are less likely to be diagnosed with postpartum depression… maybe because of all those feel-good hormones!
- Another healthy benefit: People who breastfeed are less likely to get breast cancer.
- In cultures like the Kung San of South Africa, mothers traditionally nurse babies 50 to 100 times a day!
Facts about Breastfed Babies
- A newborn can only see things clearly in focus 8 to 15 inches away from their face, meaning they can see you while they’re nursing. Talk about bonding!
- Babies have a well-developed sense of smell and know their mama’s specific breast milk scent. That’s why they’ll turn their head to you when hungry.
- Many studies show that breastfed babies are less likely to get ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.
- When a baby is going through a growth spurt, she will want to nurse more frequently—your breasts will take the hint by increasing the fat content.
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.