Long-term benefits of human milk

Long-term benefits of human milk

Early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour and exclusive human milk feeding for the first 6 months of life, with continued breastfeeding for 1 to 2 years of life or longer, is the standard for infant feeding1. Human breast milk not only provides the perfect blend of nutrients for the baby’s growth and development, but it also offers long-term benefits that can have a lasting impact on their health and well-being.

Immune Resilience: Building a Shield for Life’s Challenges

The immune-boosting properties of exclusive human milk feeding pave the way for long-term immune resilience. Maternal antibodies IgA and secretory IgA, probiotics, and prebiotics present in human milk contribute to a balanced and robust immune system. The antibodies and enzymes found in human milk help protect infants from a variety of illnesses and infections, reducing the risk of developing allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues later in life.2

Cognitive Development: Fueling the Mind for Lifelong Learning

The cognitive benefits of exclusive human milk extend beyond the early months of life. Human milk is rich in essential fatty acids, notably docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which plays a crucial role in brain development. As infants transition to solid foods and progress through childhood, the cognitive foundation laid by human breast milk contributes to enhanced learning abilities and intellectual prowess.3

Reduced Risk of Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases: Fortifying Immune Defenses

Research suggests that human milk may confer a lasting shield against allergies and autoimmune diseases. The immune-priming effects of human milk during the exclusive breastfeeding period create a foundation for preventing hypersensitive reactions and immune system malfunctions. This early immune education may contribute to a decreased risk of allergies, asthma, and autoimmune conditions in later life.4,5

Digestive Health: Sustaining a Balanced Gut Microbiome

Emphasis on the exclusive use of human milk contributes to the maintenance of a healthy gut microbiome through its prebiotic and probiotic activity through human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), lactoferrin, healthy gut bacteria, and epidermal growth factor that influence the growth of the gut. A well-balanced gut microbiome and a healthy gut are linked to improved nutrient absorption, reduced gastrointestinal issues, and long-term overall well-being.6

Optimal Growth Trajectory: Nurturing Physical and Metabolic Health 

Human milk provides balanced nutrients that foster physical growth and set the stage for a healthy body mass index (BMI) as children progress into adolescence. This may contribute to a decreased risk of obesity and metabolic disorders in adulthood.7

Psychosocial Bonding: Fostering Emotional Well-being

The skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding releases hormones like oxytocin, often referred to as the “love hormone,” which helps strengthen the emotional connection between mother and baby. The bond formed between a mother and her baby during breastfeeding can have a lasting impact on a child’s emotional well-being, leading to a sense of security and attachment that can carry through into adulthood.8

In conclusion, human breast milk is truly a gift that keeps on giving. From immune support and cognitive development to reducing the risk of chronic diseases and promoting emotional well-being, the long-term benefits of breastfeeding are too significant to ignore. So, embrace the liquid gold and give your little one the best start in life!


 1 World Health Organization. Infant and young child feeding. 20 December 2023. room/fact-sheets/detail/infant-and-young-child-feeding 

2 Hatmal MM, Al-Hatamleh MAI, Olaimat AN, et al. Immunomodulatory Properties of Human Breast Milk: MicroRNA Contents and Potential Epigenetic Effects. Biomedicines. 2022;10(6):1219. Published 2022 May 24. doi:10.3390/biomedicines10061219.

3 Hahn-Holbrook J, Fish A, Glynn LM. Human Milk Omega-3 Fatty Acid Composition is Associated with Infant Temperament. Nutrients. 2019;11(12):2964. Published 2019 Dec 4. doi:10.3390/nu11122964

4 Horta B, Bahl R, Martines J, Victoria CG. Evidence of the Long-Term Effects of Breastfeeding: Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis. WHO; Geneva, Switzerland: 2007.

5 Oddy WH. Breastfeeding, Childhood Asthma, and Allergic Disease. Ann Nutr Metab. 2017;70 Suppl 2:26-36. doi:10.1159/000457920

6 Lyons KE, Ryan CA, Dempsey EM, Ross RP, Stanton C. Breast Milk, a Source of Beneficial Microbes and Associated Benefits for Infant Health. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):1039. Published 2020 Apr 9. doi:10.3390/nu12041039

7 Yan J, Liu L, Zhu Y, Huang G, Wang PP, et al. The association between breastfeeding and childhood obesity: a meta-analysis. BMC Public Health. 2014;14:1267-1278.

8 Modak A, Ronghe V, Gomase KP. The Psychological Benefits of Breastfeeding: Fostering Maternal Well-Being and Child Development. Cureus. 2023;15(10):e46730.

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