Traditional patterns of breastfeeding may be disrupted upon resettlement. Women may feel an inclination to adopt practices that they deem as more ‘modern’ by formula-feeding their infants.[1] Breastfeeding should be encouraged whenever feasible unless a contraindication exists (i.e. HIV). The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.[2] For women who may not want to use hormonal or barrier contraceptive methods, lactational amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation during the period of breastfeeding) may be an important component of birth-spacing subsequent pregnancies.

Advantages of Breastfeeding for the Infant

  • Decreases diarrhea and chronic digestive diseases
  • Lowers respiratory, ear, and urinary infections as well as infections in the brain and blood
  • Lowers risk of botulism
  • Protects against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • Protects against diabetes
  • Protects against allergic diseases and lymphoma
  • Enhances cognitive development

Advantages of Breastfeeding for the Mother

  • Lowers postpartum bleeding
  • Decreases overall menstrual bleeding over the ensuing months after delivery
  • Promotes rapid return of uterus back to normal size
  • Promotes earlier return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Delays resumption of ovulation with increased child spacing
  • Reduces hip fractures in the postmenopausal period
  • Reduces risk of ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer

Advantages of Breastfeeding for Public Health

  • Reduces health care costs
  • Reduces employee absenteeism and lost income due to caring for sick child
  • Cost savings on purchasing formula

[1] Carballo, M. Women and Migration: A Public Health Issue. World Health Statistics Quarterly. 1996; 49(2): 158-64.

[2] Work Group on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. Pediatrics. 1997; 100:1035-1039.