Breastfeeding is associated with good cognitive and motor development in children. Breastfeeding is associated also with long-term effects on the baby’s and mother’s health. Breastfeeding benefits for the child extend into adulthood. Breast milk is recommended as the primary nutrition for both full-term and premature babies. The composition of breast milk varies depending on the infant’s and toddler’s age and needs with changing component ratio to meet the child’s needs.

Breastfeeding is very beneficial also for the mother. The mother recovers from childbirth faster. Breastfeeding releases pleasure hormone, which then relieves stress. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of, for instance, developing type 2 diabetes.

Breastfeeding experience of each baby in a family is unique. Access to advice, support and encouragement is important at any breastfeeding stage. In addition to mother and child health clinics, advice can be asked from any competent lactation expert, any other professional or peer who understands breastfeeding and the mother’s experience.

  • Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 4 to 6 months. Breastfeeding should continue at least for the first year although the baby starts to have solid foods on the side.
  • Breastfeeding has no health risks, hence the mother and child can schedule lactation according to their preferences and to suit their family best.
  • Solid foods are introduced to a baby’s diet depending on his or her individual needs at the earliest at four months of age and, however, by six months at the latest.
  • Breastmilk contains nutrients and various other components that promote the infant and toddler’s normal development and health.
  • The nutrients in breast milk are in the right proportion and easy to digest to safeguard normal development of the child’s body.
  • Breastfeeding protects the child against infections and supports normal development of the child’s body in many different ways.
  • During breastfeeding the baby or toddler practises, among other things, interaction skills for making and maintaining contact and skills to control his or her needs and to balance energy levels.
  • When getting ready for breastfeeding, the maternity clinic personnel play a crucial, supportive and guiding role; guidance will continue at the maternity hospital and after the baby’s birth, at the child health clinic.
  • Various breastfeeding positions are worth a try and the mother should pick the ones that work best for her and add least strain to her body.

To interpret the baby’s signals relating to mealtimes, caregivers should use reliable sources of information compiled by public authorities or, for instance, material provided by Imetyksen tuki ry (Breastfeeding peer support) and ask advice from the association helpline or breastfeeding support groups on Facebook.