Risks of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers

Health outcomes differ substantially for mothers who formula feed compared with those who breastfeed. For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome. 

It has also been shown that women who breastfeed have a decreased risk of hypertension, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Mothers who have breastfed for greater than 23 months total, spread between their children, show an HR of 0.63 for myocardial infarction when compared to women who have never breastfed.15

Parents do not have to purchase, measure, and mix formula when a baby is breastfed. There are no bottles to warm in the middle of the night. Breastfeeding can save families between $1,500 and $4,000 per year per baby, depending on the brand and type of formula. A mother can satisfy her baby’s hunger right away with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding requires a mother to take some quiet relaxed time for herself and her baby, helping them bond. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure and warm. Results of a recent research study showed that, compared to mothers who were formula feeding, mothers who were breastfeeding had greater responses to infant cues in brain regions implicated in maternal-infant bonding and empathy during the early postpartum.16

The AAP reported findings from a large prospective study on child abuse and neglect by the mother, which showed that the rate of abuse or neglect was significantly greater for mothers who did not breastfeed when compared to those who did breastfeed, with an OR of 2.6 (95%CI 1.7-3.9).1

Refer to the side bar for more information on excess risk among mothers who never breastfed.

Risks of NOT Breastfeeding for Mothers

Outcome Among Never Breastfeeding MothersExcess Risk (%)
Type 2 Diabetes8
Breast CancerNever BF vs. ever BF(per year of breastfeeding)4
Ovarian Cancer27
Postpartum depression13

* Excess Risk is estimated by calculating the Absolute Risk Difference per: Villegas, R., Gao, Y. T., Yang, G., Li, H., Elasy, T., Zheng, W., & Shu, X. O. (2008). Duration of breast-feeding and the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus in the Shanghai Women’s Health Study. Clinical and Experimental Diabetes and Metabolism, 51(2), 258-266. doi: 10.1007/s00125-007-0885-8.

Source: The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.