The Benefits of Breast Feeding

Nestle Nutr Inst Workshop Ser. 2016;86:67-76. doi: 10.1159/000442724. Epub 2016 Jun 23.


Human milk is considered as the gold standard for infant feeding. Breastfeeding advantages extend beyond the properties of human milk itself. A complex of nutritional, environmental, socioeconomic, psychological as well as genetic interactions establish a massive list of benefits of breastfeeding to the health outcomes of the breastfed infant and to the breastfeeding mother. For this reason, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for about 6 months and should be continued as long as mutually desired by mother and child. The evidence in the literature on the effect of breastfeeding on health outcomes is based on observational studies due to the fact that it is unethical and practically impossible to randomize children to be breastfed or not. As such, multiple confounders cloud the evidence and one must base conclusions on the accumulating evidence when not contradictory and on the only intervention study, PROBIT (Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial). This review highlights some of the health outcomes related to breastfeeding such as the prevention of infections, the effect of breastfeeding on neurodevelopmental outcome, obesity, allergy and celiac disease. Available evidence as well as some of the contradictory results is discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Celiac Disease / prevention & control
  • Communicable Diseases / diet therapy
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / prevention & control
  • Infant
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Milk, Human / chemistry*
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / prevention & control
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic