Not breastfeeding is linked to health risks for both mothers and infants. Research indicates that women who do not breastfeed have a heightened likelihood of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease based on epidemiological data. For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). 


The risk for mothers

  1. Breast Cancer: The longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her risk of premenopausal breast cancer. Each year of breastfeeding lowers the risk by about 4.3%.
  2. Ovarian Cancer: Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries, the female reproductive organs responsible for producing eggs. Women who have never breastfed have a 1.3 times higher risk of ovarian cancer compared to those who have breastfed.
  3. Weight Loss: Breastfeeding helps moms lose the weight gained during pregnancy. Not breastfeeding increases the chance of keeping that extra weight.
  4. Diabetes: Women who have never breastfed face a 1.7 times higher risk of Type-2 Diabetes compared to those who breastfed for at least 2 years.
  5. Osteoporosis: Studies show a lower prevalence of osteoporosis (bone weakening) in women who breastfed compared to those who didn't—8% versus 19%, respectively.
  6. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): is an autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the joints. In RA, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues, particularly the synovium—a membrane that lines the joints. This leads to inflammation, pain, stiffness, and potentially joint damage and deformity over time.
  7. Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack): A myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, occurs when there is a blockage in one or more coronary arteries, disrupting blood flow to a section of the heart. This lack of blood supply causes damage or death to the heart muscle.
  8. Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions that occur together, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. These conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, abnormal cholesterol levels, and insulin resistance.

The risk for children

  1. Increased Infectious Risks: Formula-fed infants face higher chances of infections in their first year due to the lack of innate immune factors found in breast milk. Breastfeeding provides protection against various diseases like respiratory infections (influenza, pneumonia), intestinal diseases (cholera, diarrhea), and reduces HIV transmission risk.
  2. Ear Infections: Formula-fed babies are twice as likely to develop ear infections compared to those exclusively breastfed for over 3 months.
  3. Lower Respiratory Tract Infections: Infants who aren't breastfed have a 3.6-fold higher risk of hospitalization due to lower respiratory tract infections in their first year compared to those breastfed for over 4 months.
  4. Gastrointestinal Infections: Studies indicate that formula-fed babies, including those on a combination of breast milk and formula, have increased risks of gastroenteritis and diarrhea.
  5. Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC): This severe condition affecting preterm babies is linked to a 2.4-fold increased risk when not breastfed, potentially leading to severe intestinal damage and fatality.
  6. Obesity and Diabetes Risk: Babies fed formula have higher odds of childhood obesity (1.1 to 1.3 times more likely) and a 1.6-fold increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Additionally, breastfeeding for less than 3 months increases the risk of Type 1 Diabetes by 1.2 to 1.4 times. 
  7. Childhood Leukemia: Formula-fed children have a 1.3 times higher risk of acute lymphoblastic leukemia if breastfed for less than 6 months. Additionally, there's a 1.2 times higher risk of acute myeloid leukemia among formula-fed infants compared to those breastfed for more than 6 months.
  8. Cognitive Development: Studies indicate lower IQ scores in formula-fed children compared to breastfed children. Shorter durations of breastfeeding are linked to developmental differences.
  9. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Formula feeding increases the chance of SIDS by 1.6 to 2.1 times compared to breastfeeding.
  10. Other Risks: Formula-fed babies face an increased risk of developing allergies, including asthma and eczema. Some studies suggest a higher likelihood of cardiovascular issues in adulthood, like higher blood pressure and less favorable lipid profiles, associated with formula feeding, though findings vary across studies.