J Compr Ped. 2014 May; 4(2): e14028.
Published online 2014 May 1. Review Article
An Overview of Importance of Breastfeeding
Foad Alimoradi 1; Maryam Javadi 1; Ameneh Barikani 2,*; Naser Kalantari 3; Mohamad
1Department of Nutrition, Faculty of Health, Qazvin University of Medical Sciences, Qazvin, IR Iran
2Department of Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Qazvin University of Medical Sciences, Qazvin, IR Iran
3Department of Community Nutrition, National Nutrition and Food Technology Research institute, Faculty of Nutrition and Food Technology, Shahid Beheshti University of Medi-
cal Sciences, Tehran, IR Iran
*Corresponding author: Ameneh Barikani, Department of Social Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Qazvin University of Medical Sciences, Qazvin, IR Iran. Tel/Fax: +98-2813341934, E-mail:
Received: August 4, 2013; Revised: February 17, 2014; Accepted: April 11, 2014
Context: According to some studies, the tendency of mothers to breastfeed has declined in recent years. Due to numerous beneﬁts of
breastfeeding which had been reported, this problem may put children’s health and overall health of society at risk. In this study, we
reviewed previous studies, emphasizing importance and necessity and enumerating beneﬁts of breast-feeding.
Evidence Acquisition: Websites including PubMed, Science Direct, Biomed, Medline, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, SID, and magazines
related to the topic were searched using keywords. Articles that examined various aspects of breastfeeding were analyzed as well.
Results: The most perfect food for babies during the ﬁrst two years of their lives is breast milk. It has so many health beneﬁts for both
mother and baby. Breastfeeding was studied from various aspects. There was signiﬁcant correlation between the examined factors in vast
majority of papers. However, some factors that researchers considered important did not give deﬁnitive results; therefore more extensive
research is needed in this area.
Conclusions: Breast milk is the most perfect food for babies during the ﬁrst two years and no replacement is recommended during this
time. Breastfeeding has so many health beneﬁts for both mother and baby during the breastfeeding period as well as in the future.
Keywords: Breastfeeding; Nutrition; Pediatrics
Implication for health policy/practice/research/medical education:
Decreased tendency of mothers to breastfeed in recent years may put children’s health and overall society health at risk. In this study, we reviewed previ-
ous studies to emphasize importance, necessity and enumerate beneﬁts of breast-feeding.
Copyright © 2014, Iranian Society of Pediatrics; Published by Safnek. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Breast milk is a unique source of food for babies (1, 2)
which contains all necessary nutrients that will ensures
the infant's health, growth and development (2). This
source of food cannot be replaced with any other diet, as
breast milk contains numerous antioxidants, protecting
babies against harm caused by pathogens (3, 4). Breast-
feeding is also an important source of antioxidants, such
as vitamin C and vitamin E, that prevent or reduce oxida-
tive damages to various body tissues (5). Many anti-in-
ﬂammatory agents were also found in breast milk which
protects child from inﬂammatory damage (6).
The breastfeeding period is the most critical period of
each individual’s life in terms of his growth and devel-
opment and an infant’s nutrition is highly important at
this stage. Secretary IgA of breast milk protects the ears,
nose, throat and digestive tract, also reduces intensity of
diseases such as diarrhea, respiratory tract infections (7,
8), otitis media, bacterial meningitis and urinary tract in-
fection (9). The carnitine level in infants fed with breast
milk is higher than infants fed with milk powder. Note
that carnitine is required for utilization of fatty acids as
an energy source (9). Exclusive breast feeding up to the
ﬁrst 6 months of an infant’s life reduces the risk of devel-
oping gastrointestinal infections (10), asthma (10, 11) and
increases prevention on development of childhood obe-
sity (12-15) and diabetes in later years of children’s lives
(16, 17) and may be associated with decreased cholesterol
concentrations (16). Also breast-fed children have higher
scores of mental-cognitive capability than children who
were not breast fed (18).
Breastfeeding signiﬁcantly reduced the risk of sudden
death syndrome in children under one year old (19-23)
and in early birth has a tremendous positive eﬀect on
children's health (24). On the other hand mothers who
had breastfed their babies are less likely to suﬀer from
hypertension (25) and with increased breastfeeding du-
ration decreased the risk of developing cardiovascular
disease in 50 year old mothers (26). Also were less prone
to develop breast cancer (27-29) and recurrence rate of
postpartum migraine (30, 31).
Alimoradi F et al.
J Compr Ped. 2014;4(2):e140282
2. Evidence Acquisition
In examining factors associated with breast milk, due to
extensive articles and topics related to this area of inter-
est, papers which stressed on the importance and ben-
eﬁts of breastfeeding were reviewed. The following key-
words were mostly looked up in articles: Breast Feeding,
Milk, Exclusive Breast Feeding, Women Milk, and Human
Milk. Sites that were used in this paper are as followed:
PubMed, ScienceDierect, Biomed, Medline, Cochrane Li-
brary, EMBASE, SID. Articles whose topics contradict this
article’s topic were considered as well.
Numerous studies have examined various aspects of
breastfeeding and breast milk feeding. There was a sig-
niﬁcant relationship between breastfeeding and critical
factors of human health in many of these studies. Given
the breadth of material in this ﬁeld of study, a summary
of examined reviewed studies are described individually
with respect to their topics in the rest of this paper.
2.1. Examining Relationship Between Breastfeeding
and Prevention of Diseases
Breastfeeding protects babies from many diseases and
reduces the severity of their symptoms. Among these dis-
eases we can mention respiratory infections, gastrointes-
tinal infections and diarrhea. Lower incidences of these
diseases were reported in infants fed with breast milk
(32-36). Salehi Abarghooyi et al. (37) showed that breast-
feeding longer than 12 months is eﬀective in reducing the
risk of myopia in six to seven years old children. A review
of several studies showed that breast milk contains bac-
teria that are disinfectants and strengthen the immune
systems of the infants’ bodies (38). Cornall (39) supported
the high impact of breastfeeding on growth and health
of skeletal system of children, compared to other nutri-
tional methods of breast feeding.
2.2. Examining the Relationship Between
Overweight and Obesity and Breastfeeding
Ibrahimzadekar et al. (40) showed that exclusive breast
feeding up to six months and its continuation until 18
months is eﬀective in reducing the risk of childhood
obesity. Some studies have shown that breastfeeding and
increased breastfeeding duration is an important factor
in reducing obesity and overweight in children (14, 41-
46). But, Shields et al. (47) and Nelson et al. (48) did not
ﬁnd an independent relationship between decreased
overweight and obesity and breastfeeding. Instead, they
found that other factors, including genetic and environ-
mental factors are involved in this relationship. How-
ever, in another study, Kramer et al. (11, 49) showed that
breastfeeding had no eﬀect on reducing obesity and over-
weight. Ijarotimi (50) study of 200 breastfeeding moth-
ers concluded that there was no signiﬁcant relationship
between breastfeeding mothers and their BMI. Burke et
al. (45) suggested in a study that children that are breast-
fed for less than four months are more likely to develop
obesity and overweight, or had increased obesity and
overweight, compared to children who had been breast
fed more than 4 months.
2.3. Examining the Relationship between
Breastfeeding and Incidence of Diabetes and
Several studies also supported the protective eﬀect of
breastfeeding against the development of type I diabetes
(17, 51). Meyer et al. (52) showed in their study of 167 ado-
lescents that breastfeeding is a protective factor against
type II diabetes in adolescents. In some studies linking
breastfeeding with reduced risk of type II diabetes has
been emphasized (53, 54). According to Villegas et al.
(53) and Stuebe et al. (55) studies, breastfeeding protects
both mother and child from type II diabetes. Stuebe et al.
(56) have also shown that breastfeeding protects mother
from hypertension; however other studies did not report
such an association (11, 57). Stuebe et al. (58) found that
the risk of developing type II diabetes in mothers who
tend to breastfeed their babies less than a month is more
than mothers who do not.
2.4. Examining the Relationship Between
Breastfeeding and Incidence of Asthma and
In a case-control study of 400 cases and controls con-
ducted by Schnooyi et al. (59) it was shown that breast-
feeding up to six months is associated with a reduced risk
of asthma in 2-8 year-old children. Another study showed
that vitamin C found in breast milk reduces allergy in
children (6). Kramer et al. (60) study of 17046 children
did not conﬁrm the eﬀects of long-term breast-feeding
in reducing asthma and allergy. On the other hand, Sil-
vers et al. (61) reported a signiﬁcant relationship between
breastfeeding and lower respiratory disorders, especially
wheezing. Silvers et al. (62) showed that exclusive breast-
feeding may reduce asthma and allergies at age six years
2.5. Examining the Relationship Between
Breastfeeding and Development and Function of
In a study of 69750 children conducted by Sun et al.
(63), it was demonstrated that persistent and long-term
breastfeeding is a protective factor against the develop-
ment of epilepsy in children. Several studies showed
that breastfeeding is eﬀective in increasing children's
cognitive understanding (18, 62, 64-66), in addition these
studies emphasized on long-term breast milk consump-
tion (62). Several studies also implied the positive role
of breastfeeding on increased IQ and mental abilities,
especially in language learning (67-69). This criterion is
Alimoradi F et al.
J Compr Ped. 2014;4(2):e14028
probably due to the presence of unsaturated fatty acids,
especially DHA, in breast milk (65, 70). Based on a case-
control study conducted by Al-Farsi et al. (71), breast milk
prevents the occurrence of autism in children. Another
study (72) also showed that the lack of breastfeeding or
early weaning of infants can make children vulnerable
to ADHA (Attention-deﬁcit/hyperactivity disorder). Nish-
ioka et al. (73) concluded in a study of 405 mothers that
mothers who breastfed their children for six months
were less prone to postpartum depression.
2.6. Examining the Relationship Between
Breastfeeding and Other Factors
The positive eﬀect of breastfeeding on the decreasing
risk of breast cancer was seen in mothers who had breast-
fed (27, 29, 58, 74). In two studies by Ram et al. (75) and
Gunderson et al. (76), it was shown that an increased
breastfeeding duration by mothers protects them
against metabolic syndrome in the following years after
weaning. Stuebe et al. (77) stated in a study of 89326 that
prolonged breastfeeding protects mothers from cardio-
vascular diseases. Schwarz et al. (78) found that increased
breastfeeding duration decreases the incidence of hyper-
tension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and Hyperlip-
idemia in mothers.
This paper showed that breastfeeding is the most criti-
cal solution which helps both an individual [the baby]
and society because both mother and child beneﬁts from
the advantages of breastfeeding. The impact of breast-
feeding on reducing obesity and overweight were greatly
proven in children and adolescents. This issue can solve
many problems and diseases that society faces in the fu-
ture. The ﬁndings in the mentioned studies show that
breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing so many dis-
eases including diarrhea, respiratory infections, diges-
tive disorders, asthma, allergies and some neurological
disorders. Besides, breastfeeding can reduce obesity and
overweight in youths and adolescents. Other beneﬁts
of breast milk are its protective eﬀect in reduced risk of
developing diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome
and breast cancer in mothers and children. Breastfeed-
ing prevents the risk of developing cardiovascular dis-
eases as well. The high concentration of anti-oxidant in
breast milk, leads to the conclusion that breast milk is a
protective factor against several numbers of cancers. So
far, no replacement has been proposed for breast milk.
Breast milk is the perfect food source - without any
other replacement - in children’s diet during the ﬁrst two
years of their lives. Further studies are still needed to ex-
amine the relationship between breastfeeding and other
1) Child should be exclusively fed with breast milk in the
ﬁrst six months of his life.
2) Child determines breastfeeding time and any time
the child demands breast milk, he should be breastfed.
3) Breastfeeding should start from early hours after
4) Breastfeeding should continue after six months
along with complementary food for the child.
5) Mothers who cannot be near their children at all
times - for any reason - can freeze their milk, so that other
family members can feed the child with this milk when-
ever the child needs to be fed.
6) Do not deprive your children from breast milk as
long as it is possible.
Sincere thanks to Social Determinants of Health Re-
search Center, Qazvin University of Medical Sciences, Qaz-
vin, Iran for their helps.
Alimoradi 30%, Javadi 30%, Barikani 25%, Kalantari 10%,
This article did not use any ﬁnancial support and there
is no conﬂict of interests for authors.
This research was supported by Qazvin University in
Medical Sciences, Qazvin Research Center for Social De-
terminants of Health, Qazvin, Iran.
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