How much formula your baby needs

It can be tricky to figure out how much formula to give your baby. Is he getting too much or too little? How much is enough? The answers depend mostly on how much your baby weighs and how he’s growing.

How much formula to feed your baby: Where to start

In general, babies eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full. But formula-fed babies tend to be heavier than breastfed babies, appetites vary among babies, and each baby’s nutritional needs change from day to day and month to month.

Our guidelines are for babies who are exclusively formula fed for the first four to six months, and then fed a combination of formula and solids up to age 1.

Don’t give your baby more than 32 ounces of formula in a day, and once he starts eating solids, you’ll probably need to cut back on the amount of formula you feed him. Your baby’s doctor can tell you where your baby falls on the growth charts and help make sure he’s growing steadily and getting a healthy amount of formula.

Note: If your baby is getting a combination of breast milk and formula, talk to his doctor for more detailed advice.

How much formula by baby’s weight

In the first four to six months when your baby isn’t eating any solids, here’s a simple rule of thumb: Offer 2.5 ounces of formula per pound of body weight each day.

For example, if your baby weighs 6 pounds, you’ll give her about 15 ounces of formula in a 24-hour period. If she weighs 10 pounds, you’ll give her about 25 ounces in a 24-hour period.

These numbers are not rigid rules. They give you an overall average for what your baby is likely to require. His daily feedings will vary according to his individual needs – in other words, he may want a bit more on some days and a bit less on others.

How much formula by signs of hunger

Learning to read your baby’s hunger cues will help you know when and how much formula to feed your baby.

Your new baby: If your newborn is hungry, she’ll eventually cry. But crying is a late sign of hunger. Earlier signs to watch for include smacking her lips or sucking, rooting (turning her head toward your hand when you stroke her cheek), and putting her hands to her mouth.

Changing appetites: Your baby may be hungrier than usual during growth spurts. These typically occur ten to 14 days after birth and at age 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months. And your baby may be less hungry than usual if she’s not feeling well.

Wanting more: You’ll know that your baby wants more when she finishes the feeding quickly and looks around for more. If she seems hungry after her first bottle, try preparing just an ounce or two more at a time. If you make a larger amount, she may not finish it and you’ll have to throw it out.

Getting too much in a feeding: Vomiting after a feeding may be a sign that your baby had too much. (Spitting up is normal, vomiting isn’t. Find out how to tell the difference.) Tummy pain after a feeding can also be a sign of overfeeding. If your baby draws up his legs or his tummy seems tense, he may be in pain.

It’s not always hunger: Resist the urge to respond to your baby’s every whimper with a bottle. Consider the possibility – especially if you’ve recently fed her – that she’s crying because her diaper is wet, she’s cold or hot, she needs to be burped, or she simply wants to be close to you.

Bottle-feeding basics for formula-fed babies

How often should I feed my baby?

As with breastfeeding, most experts agree that you shouldn’t follow a rigid schedule in the early weeks, though you may be able to work out an approximate pattern for feeding within a month or so. Offer a bottle every two to three hours at first, or as your baby seems hungry.

When your baby is about a month old, she’ll be ready to eat on a schedule. Formula-fed infants tend to be heavier than breastfed babies, so following a feeding schedule can help prevent them from overeating.

Feed your baby once every three to four hours. Until she reaches about 10 pounds, she’ll probably take 1.5 to 3 ounces per feeding. Don’t force her to take more than she seems ready to eat. Your baby’s doctor can advise you about how much your baby should eat as she grows.

Do I need to sterilize the bottles?

Doctors used to advise sterilizing bottle-feeding supplies back when the safety of water supplies was less reliable. This isn’t as much of a concern now, but it’s best to play it safe and ask your child’s doctor if she thinks sterilization is necessary.

If your doctor recommends sterilizing your supplies before the first use, submerge new bottles, nipples, and rings in a pot of boiling water for at least five minutes. Then let them air dry on a clean towel. After that, a good hand-washing with soapy water or a cycle through the dishwasher is sufficient. (You can find handy bottle gear – such as drying racks and dishwasher baskets for nipples, rings, and bottle caps – online or at baby supply stores.)

If you have well water, or if your local health department says your tap water is unsafe for drinking, you’ll probably need to sterilize bottles before every use.

A note about plastics: Some studies have found that plastic baby bottles contain chemicals which may leach into the formula, especially when the bottle is heated. You can avoid this risk by using bottles made of stainless steel or glass. If you decide to use plastic bottles, don’t boil them, heat them in the microwave, or wash them in the dishwasher. Instead, hand wash them with a bottle brush and warm, soapy water. Learn more about the safety of plastic baby bottles.

Do I need to sterilize my drinking water for making formula?

Many parents do sterilize the water used to mix formula, especially in the newborn months, but you don’t need to unless your child’s doctor recommends it. However, if you use well water or your tap water is unsafe for drinking, you’ll need to sterilize it or use bottled water for mixing formula.

If you do choose to boil the water you use to mix formula, save yourself time by preparing enough in the morning for the whole day. Bring cold water to a rolling boil and let it boil for just one minute. Let it cool to room temperature for no longer than 30 minutes, mix enough formula for the next 24 hours, and refrigerate it immediately. Discard any formula that isn’t used within 24 hours.

What’s the best way to warm a bottle?

There’s no health reason to warm formula, though your baby may prefer it. When you’re ready to feed your baby, you can warm a bottle in a bowl of hot – not boiling – water, or by running it under the tap. You can also buy a bottle warmer designed for this purpose. Always test the formula by shaking a few drops on the inside of your wrist to make sure it’s not too hot for your baby.

If your baby is accustomed to drinking bottles at room temperature or slightly cold, you save yourself the time and hassle of preheating bottles, especially when she’s crying to be fed right now.

Caution: Never use a microwave to heat a bottle of formula. A microwave heats unevenly, so it can create hot pockets and lead to burns. Microwave heating can also cause the nutrients in formula to break down. Also, if you use plastic bottles, warm formula by putting the bottle in a bowl of warm – not hot – water or run it under warm water.

Formula Feeding

Before you start formula-feeding, get the scoop on choosing bottles and nipples to suit your little one and your family. Then, with bottles in hand, one of your first concerns will probably be how much formula is enough – and how much is too much? We’ll help you determine your baby’s needs and use formula safely. Plus: Get tips and advice for supplementing with formula if you have a breastfeeding baby.

Choosing & Using Baby Formula

If you’re formula-feeding, you may have some important questions. Whether you choose to exclusively formula-feed your little one or to breastfeed and supplement with formula, we can help you figure out how much formula your baby needs and learn how to prepare and store it safely. Plus, find out whether it’s really necessary to warm up formula before feeding it to your baby.

Bottles & Nipples for Formula Feeding

New to formula feeding? Before you shop for supplies, see our guide to choosing nipples and bottles. Then we’ll get you up to speed quickly on the basics, including when you might need to sterilize drinking water for formula, how to warm a bottle, and how to keep bottles clean. You’ll also find answers to important questions like when babies can start holding their own bottle and whether plastic bottles are safe.

 

Introducing your breastfed baby to the bottle or cup

What’s the best way to introduce my baby to a bottle?

Most lactation experts suggest waiting until your baby is at least a month old and breastfeeding is well established before introducing a bottle. If you’re returning to work, start bottle-feeding at least two weeks before your start date so you both have time to adjust. (Find more information on such topics as sterilizing bottles and how often to bottle-feed in our article on bottle-feeding basics.)

Sucking milk from a bottle requires different mouth and tongue movements than breastfeeding, so it may take your baby a little time to get used to the change. Try these tips for a smooth transition:

  • Offer him a bottle in the evening after his regular feeding to get him used to the nipple. Start with a small amount of breast milk – about half an ounce.
  • Try a slow-flow nipple. For some babies, especially infants, a regular nipple may flood them with milk. If your baby gags when using a bottle, replace his nipple with a slow-flow one to see if that helps.
  • Let someone else feed him the first bottle. If you try to give your baby his first bottle, he may wonder why he’s not getting your breast. He may be less confused if someone else makes the introduction. Ask your mother, your partner, a childcare provider, or a friend to help.
  • Try to be out of the house. A baby can smell his mother, even from a distance, so he may know that you (and your breasts) are just in the next room.

Tory Winnick introduced her son Philip to the bottle when he was 3 weeks old. “I pumped and put my breast milk in a bottle so my husband Mike could experience feeding the baby,” she remembers. “We had to try a few different nipples until we found one that most closely simulated the breast. It really made Mike feel great that he could feed the baby too.”

Your baby may not eat very much when you aren’t home and may begin waking more frequently at night if you’re apart all day. Don’t be surprised if this happens, and just take advantage of these quiet and intimate times to reconnect with your baby.

What can I do if my baby resists taking a bottle?

Some babies take to the bottle without much fuss, but others struggle quite a bit with the transition. If your baby is having a hard time, try these techniques:

  • Use a bottle nipple similar to her pacifier. If she sucks on a latex pacifier, use a latex bottle nipple (rather than a silicone one) and vice versa. Warm the nipple with water to make it feel more appealing.
  • Put some breast milk on the nipple. When your baby tastes it, she may start sucking to get more. (Don’t use honey, which can cause infant botulism in children younger than 12 months.)
  • Let your baby play with the nipple so she can familiarize herself with it. If she just chews on it, let her for now. She may actually start sucking on it soon.
  • Hold her in a different position: Put her in an infant or car seat so she is semi-upright, and then feed her the bottle while facing her. Or try feeding her on your lap with her back to your chest. Once she is used to taking a bottle, you can hold her as you usually would for feedings.
  • Try different temperatures. It could be your baby prefers her milk slightly warmer or colder than you’ve been giving it to her. Experiment with different temperatures to see what she prefers. You might also see if there’s a difference between giving her fresh milk or milk that’s been frozen.
  • Offer the bottle at other times of day. If your baby won’t take the bottle during the day, try offering it during a nighttime feeding or vice versa.

One resourceful father put on his wife’s bathrobe and tucked the bottle under his arm while holding the baby in a breastfeeding position. That won’t work for you, but it might work for Dad!

I’ve tried everything, but my baby is only getting more frustrated and resistant.

Your baby needs time to get used to new sensations, so stick with the same nipple, bottle, and feeding technique for a while before trying something new. Constantly changing the feeding position or switching out new nipples may just end up confusing (and frustrating) him.

Make sure you have lots of time to take it slow during this process. If your baby starts crying and pushes the bottle away, back off, comfort him, and then try again. If you’ve tried offering the bottle and your baby has refused three times, let it go for now. (Wait at least five minutes before breastfeeding – that way he won’t associate refusing the bottle with immediate gratification.)

Offer the bottle again in an hour or two, when your baby is alert and receptive but not frantically hungry.

My baby took to the bottle easily at first, but now she wants only to breastfeed.

Early success isn’t necessarily an ironclad guarantee that your baby will always take a bottle. Many babies who have been getting bottles all along suddenly decide they simply prefer breastfeeding and don’t want a bottle anymore. And why not? Breastfeeding is warm, cozy, and involves their favorite person – Mom.

But don’t worry: For most babies, this is just a short-lived developmental step. If your baby suddenly refuses to take a bottle, talk to your child’s doctor to rule out a medical reason then try reintroducing it at another time.

What if I want to skip the bottle and teach my baby to drink from a cup?

In some countries, infants who can’t nurse are taught to use a cup from the get-go. There are some advantages to this method: There’s no chance of nipple confusion, and you won’t be tempted to prop up your baby with a bottle at nap time or bedtime (which can lead to tooth decay). You’ll also never have to break a bottle habit.

Of course, helping your baby drink from a cup is time-consuming. Unless you use a sippy cup or a cup with a built-in straw, you’ll have to help her drink – and be prepared for the inevitable mess. Daycare providers may not be able to accommodate this arrangement.

Many of the same principles of introducing your baby to a bottle hold true for using a cup. Have her get used to a cup at an early age (but not until breastfeeding is well established), and introduce it gradually – one feeding a day. If you’re going back to work, start a few weeks before so your child has time to get used to this new feeding method.

My baby absolutely refuses to take a bottle. What should I do?

When this happens, it’s not uncommon to blame yourself, saying, “If only I had given him a bottle a day from the beginning, this wouldn’t be happening.” But this just isn’t true. Some babies never take a bottle.

Others may tell you that if you just wait him out, he’ll eventually be hungry enough to take a bottle. That’s not necessarily true, and making a baby go for long stretches without eating isn’t a good idea. Don’t make mealtime into a battleground.

If all attempts to bottle-feed him fail, go the cup route. Hold him upright in one arm and bring the cup to his mouth, tilting it gently until a bit of milk or formula drips in. He’ll lap it up at first and then figure out to drink it. You can also use a hollow-handled medicine spoon to do the same thing.

What if I decide to wean my baby from the breast?

If you’ve decided to wean your baby, or to nurse only before and after work, you deserve congratulations and support for having given your baby weeks or months of breast milk. Just be sure that your baby gets the same one-on-one, physically nurturing and affectionate time with you during bottle-feeding that she did with breastfeeding.

Weaning: When and how to stop breastfeeding

What does it mean to have weaned a child?

Your baby is considered weaned when he stops nursing and gets all his nutrition from sources other than the breast. Although babies are also weaned from the bottle, the term usually refers to when a baby stops breastfeeding.

Weaning doesn’t necessarily signal the end of the intimate bond you and your child created through nursing. It just means you’re nourishing and nurturing him in different ways.

For example, if you often nursed your child for comfort, you’ll have to find other ways to make him feel better. Read a book, sing a song together, or play outside instead. If your child protests, try to stay calm and be firm. If you need to, hand him to your partner for a cuddle.

When should I start weaning?

You’re the best judge of when it’s time to wean, and you don’t have to set a deadline until you and your child are ready. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed for at least a year – and encourages women to breastfeed even longer if both you and your baby want to.

Despite what friends, relatives, or even strangers may say, there’s no right or wrong way to wean. You can choose a time that feels right to you, or let your child wean naturally when she’s older.

Baby-led weaning: Weaning is easiest when your child begins to lose interest in nursing, and that can happen any time after she starts eating solids (around 4 to 6 months). Some babies are more interested in solid food than breast milk by 12 months, after they’ve tried a variety of foods and can drink from a cup

Toddlers may become less interested in nursing when they grow more active and aren’t inclined to sit still long enough to nurse. If your child is fussy and impatient while nursing or is easily distracted, she may be giving you signs that she’s ready.

Mother-led weaning: You may decide to start weaning because you’re returning to work. Or maybe it just feels like the right time. If you’re ready but your child isn’t showing signs she wants to stop nursing, you can wean her off the breast gradually.

When it’s the mother’s idea, weaning can take a lot of time and patience. It also depends on your child’s age and how she adjusts to change.

It’s a good idea to avoid the ‘cold turkey’ approach to weaning. For example, a weekend away from your baby or toddler is not a good way to end the breastfeeding relationship. Experts say that abruptly withholding your breast can be traumatic for your baby and could cause plugged ducts or a breast infection for you.

How do I wean?

Go slowly, and expect to see signs of frustration from your baby at first. Ease the transition by using these methods:

Skip a feeding. See what happens if you offer a bottle or cup of milk instead of nursing. You can substitute pumped breast milk, formula, or whole cow’s milk (if your child is at least a year old).

Reducing feedings one at a time over a period of weeks gives your child time to adjust. Your milk supply also diminishes gradually this way, without leaving your breasts engorged or causing mastitis.

Shorten nursing time. Start by limiting how long your child is on the breast. If he usually nurses for ten minutes, try five.

Depending on his age, follow the feeding with a healthy snack, such as unsweetened applesauce or a cup of milk or formula. (Some babies younger than 6 months may not be ready for solids.) Solid food is complementary to breast milk until your baby is a year old.

Bedtime feedings may be harder to shorten because they’re usually the last to go.

Postpone and distract. Try postponing feedings if you’re only nursing a couple of times a day.

This method works well if you have an older child you can reason with. If your child asks to nurse, reassure him that you will soon and distract him with a different activity. If he wants to nurse in the early evening, explain that he has to wait until bedtime.

To ease your baby’s transition to a bottle, try putting a few drops of breast milk on his lips or tongue before slipping the bottle’s nipple into his mouth. You can also try giving him a small amount of breast milk in a bottle a couple of hours after breastfeeding but before he’s so hungry that he’s impatient and frustrated.

Will my child get enough nutrients?

Even exclusively breastfed infants need extra nutrients that breast milk can’t provide, like vitamin D. If you wean your baby before she reaches her first birthday, she’ll need to continue to drink breast milk or iron-fortified formula until she’s a year old. Then once your child reaches toddlerhood, it’ll be necessary to give her a wider variety of foods that offer the range of nutrients she needs to help her grow.

What to do when weaning becomes a struggle

If you’ve tried everything to wean your child and nothing is working, maybe the time isn’t right.

Have you recently gone back to work? Your child may still be adjusting to the new routine.

Is your child sick? Babies often want to nurse more frequently when they don’t feel well. And breastfeeding a sick child is not only comforting, but also a good source of nutrition.

Is your household going through a major life change? Events such as a move or divorce can also make weaning more difficult. Even going through a new developmental stage can make it hard to wean.

Try again in another month. Sooner or later, it’ll happen.

Breast Pumping & Bottle Feeding

Many moms want or need to pump their breast milk. Find out why you might decide to pump, how to pump and store breast milk, and how to solve common breast pumping problems. Also learn about bottle-feeding your baby, from how to pick nipples and bottles to how to prepare bottles for a feeding and introduce your breastfed baby to the bottle.

Weaning

Weaning can be simple or a struggle, depending on your circumstances and how attached your child is to breastfeeding. Get advice on how to wean, when to know if it’s time to start weaning, and how to address problems that might be pressuring you to give up breastfeeding. Also, get the scoop on introducing cow’s milk to your child.

 

What’s in breast milk?

What’s in breast milk depends on when it’s being made and for whom. One of the wonderful characteristics of human milk is the way it changes to meet your baby’s needs as he grows. The breast milk a mother produces for her premature baby differs from the milk she would produce for a full-term newborn, and that differs from the milk she’ll have for her 6-month-old baby. All breast milk, however, contains exactly the nutritional and protective components needed most by each baby at every age.

Colostrum is the first pale yellow milk your breasts produce after giving birth. (You may have noticed beads of colostrum on your nipples in the last weeks of pregnancy.) It’s so high in antibodies that some people call it a baby’s first immunization. It’s higher in protein, minerals, salt, vitamin A, nitrogen, white blood cells, and certain antibodies, and has less fat and sugar than mature milk. Colostrum also has a slightly laxative effect and helps a newborn rinse his gastrointestinal tract of meconium, the waste product accumulated before birth, thereby reducing the risk of jaundice. A little colostrum goes a long way. You may not feel as if you’re producing much, but each drop is packed with nutritional and protective components.

Mature milk comes in approximately two to four days after your baby’s born, depending on the frequency of nursing in the first hours and days after birth. and is produced in greater amounts than colostrum. (Moms often produce too much at first, until their baby’s appetite and nursing frequency match the amount produced to the amount needed.) Mature milk contains water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and white cells. Over the course of a feeding, breast milk changes from foremilk, high in water and lactose, to hindmilk, high in fat and calories. After the first few weeks of nursing, your breast milk will contain fewer white cells and more of another antibacterial enzyme, lysozyme, the level of which stays high as long as breastfeeding continues. The quantity of milk you produce increases along with your baby’s weight and appetite until solid food becomes a daily part of his diet.

Breast milk contains more than 200 known beneficial elements, with more being discovered all the time. For example, researchers believe that a recently discovered fatty acid in breast milk promotes the growth of a baby’s brain and retina and may even enhance cognitive development. Many of these elements, including infection-fighting white cells, can’t be manufactured.

breastfeeding benefits

Breastfeeding may boost your child’s intelligence

Various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development. In a study of more than 17,000 infants followed from birth to 6 1/2 years, researchers concluded from IQ scores and other intelligence tests that prolonged and exclusive breastfeeding significantly improves cognitive development.

Another study of almost 4,000 children showed that babies who were breastfed had significantly higher scores on a vocabulary test at 5 years of age than children who were not breastfed. And the scores were higher the longer they had been nursed.

Preterm infants with extremely low birth weight who received breast milk shortly after birth improved their mental development scores at 18 months when compared with preterm infants who weren’t given breast milk. In a later study, researchers found that the higher scores held at 30 months, and that the babies who received breast milk were also less likely to be hospitalized again because of respiratory infections.

Experts say that the emotional bonding that takes place during breastfeeding probably contributes to some of the brainpower benefits, but that the fatty acids in breast milk may play the biggest role.

Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as a way to help reduce your child’s risk of becoming overweight or obese. An analysis of 17 studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that breastfeeding reduces a child’s risk of becoming overweight as a teen or adult. The strongest effect is in children who were exclusively breastfed, and the longer the baby was breastfed the stronger the link.

Experts think that breastfeeding may affect later weight gain for several reasons:

  • Breastfed babies are better at eating until their hunger is satisfied, leading to healthier eating patterns as they grow.
  • Breast milk contains less insulin than formula. (Insulin stimulates the creation of fat.)
  • Breastfed babies have more leptin in their system, a hormone that researchers believe plays a role in regulating appetite and fat.
  • Compared with breastfed babies, formula-fed infants gain weight more rapidly in the first weeks of life. This rapid weight gain is associated with later obesity. Bastfeeding may lower your baby’s risk of SIDS

A large German study published in 2009 found that breastfeeding – either exclusively or partially – is associated with a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The researchers concluded that exclusive breastfeeding at 1 month of age cut the risk of SIDS in half.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends breastfeeding for as long as possible to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression

The National Institutes of Health reviewed more than 9,000 study abstracts and concluded that women who didn’t breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early on had a higher risk of postpartum depression.

Many women report feeling relaxed while breastfeeding. That’s because nursing triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin. Numerous studies in animals and humans have found that oxytocin promotes nurturing and relaxation. (Oxytocin released while nursing also helps your uterus contract after birth, resulting in less postpartum bleeding.)

One study found that women who had high amounts of oxytocin in their system (50 percent of breastfeeding moms as opposed to 8 percent of bottle-feeding moms) had lower blood pressure after being asked to talk about a stressful personal problem.

By the way, if you’re being treated for depression, you can still breastfeed your baby. Your healthcare practitioner can help you identify safe ways to treat your depression while nursing.

Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer

Numerous studies have found that the longer women breastfeed, the more they’re protected against breast and ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect.

It’s not entirely clear how breastfeeding helps, but it may have to do with the structural changes in breast tissue caused by breastfeeding and the fact that lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen your body produces. Researchers think the effect on ovarian cancer may be related to estrogen suppression as well.

How breastfeeding benefits you and your baby

How breastfeeding benefits you and your baby

Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.

That’s one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months (although any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial). And scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding is good for your health, too.

Here’s a look at some of the most important benefits breastfeeding offers you and your baby.

Breastfeeding protects your baby from a long list of illnesses

Numerous studies from around the world have shown that stomach viruses, lower respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and meningitis occur less often in breastfed babies and are less severe when they do happen. Exclusive breastfeeding (meaning no solid food, formula, or water) for at least six months seems to offer the most protection

One large study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren’t breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk.

The main immune factor at work here is a substance called secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) that’s present in large amounts in colostrum, the first milk your body produces for your baby. (Secretory IgA is present in lower concentrations in mature breast milk.) The substance guards against invading germs by forming a protective layer on the mucous membranes in your baby’s intestines, nose, and throat.

Your breast milk is specifically tailored to your baby. Your body responds to pathogens (virus and bacteria) that are in your body and makes secretory IgA that’s specific to those pathogens, creating protection for your baby based on whatever you’re exposed to.

Breastfeeding’s protection against illness lasts beyond your baby’s breastfeeding stage, too. Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of developing certain childhood cancers. Scientists don’t know exactly how breast milk reduces the risk, but they think antibodies in breast milk may give a baby’s immune system a boost.

Breastfeeding may also help children avoid a host of diseases that strike later in life, such as type 1 and type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and inflammatory bowel disease. In fact, preemies given breast milk as babies are less likely to have high blood pressure by the time they’re teenagers.

For babies who aren’t breastfed, researchers have documented a link between lack of breastfeeding and later development of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies

Babies who are fed a formula based on cow’s milk or soy tend to have more allergic reactions than breastfed babies.

Scientists think that immune factors such as secretory IgA (only available in breast milk) help prevent allergic reactions to food by providing a layer of protection to a baby’s intestinal tract. Without this protection, inflammation can develop and the wall of the intestine can become “leaky.” This allows undigested proteins to cross the gut where they can cause an allergic reaction and other health problems.

Babies who are fed formula rather than breast milk don’t get this layer of protection, so they’re more vulnerable to inflammation, allergies, and other eventual health issues.