The immaturity of the infant's immune system and the rapid evolution of pathogens has created a demand for the mother to provide ready made specific defence factors to her offspring. This is achieved during the fetal period by transplacental transport of IgG antibodies, and after birth via IgA antibodies in the breast milk. The breast milk also contains a variety of nonspecific defence factors contributing to its antimicrobial effect. Breast feeding has been shown to decrease morbidity in gastroenteritis, septicemia, otitis media, urinary tract infection, encephalitis, pneumonia, and necrotizing enterocolitis. The antibody content in the mother's milk probably contributes not only to the immediate but also to the long term protection of the infant including both resistance to infection and development of immunological tolerance to harmless environmental antigens.