Exclusive Breastfeeding

What is Exclusive Breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding a baby with breast milk only. It is recommended that babies be exclusively breastfed for 6 months.

Breastfeeding may continue until a baby is 1 year or older, if wanted by both mother and child. Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 6 months has many benefits for both the mother and the baby.

What are the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding?

  • Exclusive breastfeeding helps your baby grow and develop normally. One reason for this is that breast milk has all the nutrients that a baby needs, when the baby needs them.
  • Breast milk helps develop your baby’s immune system by providing proteins called antibodies that help fight off germs.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding may lower your baby’s risk for:
    • Stomach and intestinal problems.
    • Allergies.
    • Ear infections.
    • Respiratory infections.
    • Obesity.
    • Diabetes.
    • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Breastfeeding helps improve your recovery from giving birth by:
    • Reducing how much blood you lose after delivery.
    • Speeding up how quickly your uterus heals.
    • Reducing your risk of postpartum depression.
    • Increasing the time before your routine menstrual periods return (lactational amenorrhea), which can help to delay pregnancy if you are not using birth control.

What are some tips for exclusive breastfeeding?

  • Start breastfeeding within your baby’s first hour of life.
  • Do notgive your baby infant formula, water, or solid food before your baby is 6 months old, unless told by your health care provider.
  • Feed your baby on-demand. This means feeding anytime your child expresses signs of hunger. This can help maintain your milk supply. Signs of hunger include:
    • Moving restlessly.
    • Rooting. This is when the baby looks like he or she is sucking without anything in the mouth.
    • Bringing hands to the mouth.
    • Crying.
  • Avoid using bottles in the first several weeks.
  • Do notuse pacifiers.
  • If you must bottle feed:
    • Continue to offer your baby breast milk by using a breast pump to maintain your milk supply.
    • Pump after feedings and store extra breast milk.
    • Offer only breast milk in a bottle.

What happens if I start supplementing feedings?

If you work outside the home, it may be difficult to continue exclusive breastfeeding. However, you can make sure your baby continues to receive only breast milk by pumping and providing breast milk through bottle feeding.

Sometimes it is necessary to supplement feedings. If your baby was born prematurely or has vitamin or mineral deficiencies, your health care provider may recommend giving your baby rehydration liquids or vitamin and mineral supplements with breast milk. If you start supplementing feedings, your baby will drink less breast milk and your body will respond by making less breast milk. If you choose to supplement feedings but would like to maintain your milk supply so you can breastfeed your baby exclusively later on, you can pump your breast milk and give your baby your breast milk by bottle.

Where to find support

  • Health care providers and lactation specialists. They can help by:
    • Giving you educational materials.
    • Giving you information about where you can get supplies such as breast pumps and nursing bras.
    • Providing you with counseling if you need emotional support.
    • Sharing feeding basics with you, such as effective positions for breastfeeding.
    • Troubleshooting feeding challenges.
  • Your peers. Your friends, family, and other women can help by:
    • Sharing their experiences and success stories.
    • Giving you new ideas.
    • Encouraging you to keep breastfeeding even when it feels difficult.
  • Educational programs about breastfeeding. These programs can help you prepare for breastfeeding before your baby is born. Educational programs include:
    • Classes.
    • Print handouts.
    • Videos.
    • Telephone support.
    • One-on-one instruction.


  • Exclusive breastfeeding means feeding a baby with breast milk only.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding provides many benefits for both you and your baby.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of your baby’s life is recommended.
  • You can find support for breastfeeding through your health care provider, friends and family, and educational programs.

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