It's no exaggeration to say that breastmilk is amazing. It's all the food a baby needs in its first six months of life, it remains the most important source of nutrition for the first year and - let's not overlook this - it's free!
Breastmilk is the perfect food for your baby. It is nutritionally unique, containing the perfect balance of protein, carbohydrate and fats.
Each mother's breastmilk is a unique living substance, which changes daily to meet your baby's growing needs.
Breastmilk will meet all your baby's nutritional needs for at least the first six months of her life and remains the most important source of nutrition for the first year.
Science is still discovering more important health-giving properties in breastmilk, so it's no wonder that breastmilk is irreplaceable!
Even in a highly developed country like Australia, a baby fed on artificial formula is up to 10 times more likely to be hospitalised in its first year than a baby who is breastfed.
Your breastmilk contains antibodies which increase your baby's resistance to infection and disease. That means that your own breastmilk is uniquely structured to contain antibodies to fight the very illnesses to which you are exposed, as well as a host of other serious illnesses both now and later in your baby's life.
When your baby is born, her immune system is not fully developed. This development happens gradually over the first nine to 12 months.
Gradually, your baby's own immune defences take over from the protection you provide. If your baby does not receive breastmilk, this transition from dependence to independence may be difficult, with a significant increase in health risks.
Breastfeeding protects your baby against a whole host of illnesses including gastroenteritis, respiratory illnesses, middle ear infections, urinary tract infections, coeliac disease, meningitis, some childhood cancers, necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), which can cause death in premature babies, and diabetes.
Breastfeeding has also been shown to lessen the risk of allergy and food intolerance. Impressive new Australian research has also shown that breastfeeding plays an important role in protecting children from asthma.
Children who have been breastfed are less prone to obesity and this good early start appears to carry on into a healthier adulthood.
The health benefits of breastfeeding are "dose responsive" - so the longer you are able to breastfeed, the greater the benefits for your baby.
While you may have heard quite a lot about these benefits of breastfeeding, you might not realise that it will also aid your baby's eyesight and helps in the development of his mouth, teeth and jaw.
Did you know that the distance from the breast to a mother's eyes is the optimum distance for a baby's eyes to focus?
Babies who receive breastmilk will reach their optimum intellectual potential, as fatty acids in breastmilk aid the development of important pathways in the brain.
Of course, breastfeeding isn't just good for babies. It offers mothers some protection against pre-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and has a strong contraceptive effect while your baby is exclusively breastfed and your periods haven't returned.
Breastfeeding remains the world's most important contraceptive . Lactation is an important stage in the female reproductive cycle.
Your body is uniquely geared to sustaining your baby during this very rapid period of development - in the same way that it sustained her during your pregnancy.
Breastfeeding can help your body return to its pre-pregnant state more quickly. Oxytocin, one of the hormones released during breastfeeding, causes the uterus to contract.
Many women are pleased to find that, without dieting, they lose the extra kilos gained during pregnancy just by breastfeeding.
There's no doubt that breastfeeding saves time and money, not only on artificial foods, but also on medical expenses and time off work.
Healthy, breastfed babies save Australia an astonishing amount in reduced health-care dollars.
In an environmentally conscious world, it is also good to know that breastfeeding creates no waste or pollution.
Breastfed babies are so "portable" - in today's busy life, it's so convenient to have instant, pre-warmed (and, importantly, safe and hygienic) food on hand when we're out and about with our babies.
You will also appreciate taking "time out" from your other mothering tasks - breastfeeding is the perfect time for you to rest.
It is important to recognise that breastfeeding is more than just a means of making sure your baby has enough to eat and drink.
Many mothers say that the most important aspect of breastfeeding is the strong bond it creates with their babies.
Nature intended breastfeeding to be pleasurable for both mother and baby. As you watch your growing baby, nurtured by your breastmilk and secure in the bond that breastfeeding creates, you can take pride from knowing that only you can make this perfect gift to your little one.
Source: Australian Breastfeeding Association