RIVM performed a systematic literature review of epidemiological studies on the health effects of breastfeeding. It is an update of previous reports on the health effects of breastfeeding from 2005 and 2007. Most of the reported health effects were already reported back then. New is the finding that breastfeeding might have a protective effect on hypertension among mothers. The probable protective effect of breastfeeding on eczema in children could not be confirmed.

Breastfeeding has a beneficial effect on the health of both the child and the mother compared to formula feeding. The beneficial effect is maintained after breastfeeding is stopped. There is convincing evidence that breastfed infants run a lower risk of contracting certain infectious diseases. Breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of developing obesity, asthma and wheezing in children and diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and hypertension in their mothers.

Objective information

The present review was commissioned by the Dutch ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The Dutch government seeks to provide objective information on breastfeeding and its health effects to inform pregnant women.