Review Article

Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding: An integrative review


Background & Aim: The importance of breastfeeding and its exclusivity in the first six months of the child’s life, is worldwide recognized. Despite that, adherence to exclusive breastfeeding is far from international standards. Therefore, updating evidence on this topic is essencial to demonstrate to parents and health professionals, the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, demystifying ideas and promote adherence.
Materials & Methods: An  integrative  review  was  conducted  with  a  search  in Medline,  SciELO  and  CINHAL  databases,  with  the  descriptors  “breast feeding", "breast", "feeding", "breastfeeding", "exclusive" and "benefits",  combined  with  the  Boolean  operator  "AND" and “OR”,  from  studies  published  between  2014  and  2019. Of the 221 studies identified, eight were included for review.
Results: Short-term and long-term benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for children were identified, such as healthier eating habits, reduced length of hospital stay, favorable weight increase, lower body mass index, lower adiposity, lower total cholesterol values, better cognitive and behavioral development, as well as stability of metabolic levels in children with metabolic disorders.
Conclusion: There are benefits for exclusive breastfeeding that must be explained to parents. Nurses must incorporate the best available evidence into their practice to enable parents to realise the impact of the choice of exclusive breastfeeding on the child's health, increasing their adherence.

1. Giugliani E. Amamentação: bases científicas para a prática profissional. Available at: Accessed November, 2019.
2. Nasjonal faglig retningslinje for spedbarnsernæring. Oslo: Helsedirektoratet, 2019. Available at: Helsedirektoratet. Accessed November, 2019.
3. Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Cochrane Database Syst Ver. 2012; 8: CD003517.
4. Horta BL, Victora CG. Short-term effects of breastfeeding: a systematic review on the benefits of breastfeeding on diarrhoea and pneumonia mortality. Geneva: World Health Organization, 2013. Available at:;jsessionid- A3ABB02579F54860E314B8CD012B1632?sequence=1 (26.4.2019). Accessed November, 2019.
5. Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN). Feeding in the First Year of Life. London: UK Government, Public Health England, 2018. Available at: Accessed November, 2019.
6. Ciampo LA, Ciampo IR. Breastfeeding and the benefits of lactation for women’s health. Revista Brasileira de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia. 2018 Jun;40(6):354-9.
7. World Health Organization. Available at: Accessed November, 2019.
8. Gertosio C, Meazza C, Pagani S, Bozzola M. Breastfeeding and its gamut of benefits. Minerva pediatrica. 2016 Jun 1;68(3):201-12.
9. Agostoni C, Braegger C, Decsi T, Kolacek S, Koletzko B, Michaelsen KF, Mihatsch W, Moreno LA, Puntis J, Shamir R, Szajewska H. Breast-feeding: a commentary by the ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition. Journal of pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition. 2009 Jul 1;49(1):112-25.
10. Associação Portuguesa de Nutricionistas. Aleitamento materno: promover saúde. Available at: Accessed November, 2019
11. Sousa E. Aleitamento materno: a nutrição do amor. Available at: Accessed November, 2019.
12. Martin CR, Ling PR, Blackburn GL. Review of infant feeding: key features of breast milk and infant formula. Nutrients. 2016 May;8(5):279.
13. UNICEF. Available at: Accessed October, 2019
14. Aryeetey R, Dykes F. Global implications of the new WHO and UNICEF implementation guidance on the revised Baby‐Friendly Hospital Initiative. Maternal & Child Nutrition. 2018 Jul;14(3):e12637.
15. Levy L, Bértolo H. Manual de aleitamento materno. Lisboa: Comité Português para a UNICEF Comissão Nacional Iniciativa Hospitais Amigos Dos Bebés; 2008. P. 43.
16. Cardoso L. Aleitamento materno: uma prática de educação para a saúde no âmbito da enfermagem obstétrica. [Master thesis]. Instituto de Educação e Psicologia, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Braga; 2006.
17. Hmone MP, Li M, Agho K, Alam A, Dibley MJ. Factors associated with intention to exclusive breastfeed in central women’s hospital, Yangon, Myanmar. International breastfeeding journal. 2017 Dec 1;12(1):29.
18. Moher D, Liberati A, Tetzlaff J, Altman DG, Prisma Group. Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses: the PRISMA statement. PLoS med. 2009 Jul 21;6(7):e1000097. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed1000097.
19. Souza MT, Silva MD, Carvalho RD. Integrative review: what is it? How to do it?. Einstein (São Paulo). 2010 Mar;8(1):102-6.
20. Torraco RJ. Writing integrative literature reviews: Using the past and present to explore the future. Human resource development review. 2016Dec;15(4):404-28. doi:10.1177/1534484316671606.
21. Higgins JP, Thomas J, Chandler J, Cumpston M, Li T, Page MJ, Welch VA, editors. Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews of interventions. John Wiley & Sons; 2019 Sep 23.
22. Pautasso M. Ten simple rules for writing a literature review. PLoS Comput Biol. 2013 Jul 18;9(7):e1003149. doi:
23. Wells GA. et al. Newcastle-Ottawa Quality Assessment Scale Case Control Studies. Available at: Accessed November, 2019.
24. Perrine CG, Galuska DA, Thompson FE, Scanlon KS. Breastfeeding duration is associated with child diet at 6 years. Pediatrics. 2014 Sep 1;134(Supplement1):S50-5. doi:10.1542/peds.2014-0646I.
25. Hui LL, Kwok MK, Nelson EA, Lee SL, Leung GM, Schooling CM. Breastfeeding in infancy and lipid profile in adolescence. Pediatrics. 2019 May 1;143(5). doi:
26. Chinea Jiménez B, Awad Parada Y, Villarino Marín A, Sáenz de Pipaón Marcos M. Beneficios a corto, medio y largo plazo de la ingesta de leche humana en recién nacidos de muy bajo peso. Nutrición Hospitalaria. 2017 Oct;34(5):1059-66.
27. Choi HJ, Kang SK, Chung MR. The relationship between exclusive breastfeeding and infant development: A 6-and 12-month follow-up study. Early human development. 2018 Dec 1;127:42-7. doi:
28. Huang J, Vaughn MG, Kremer KP. Breastfeeding and child development outcomes: an investigation of the nurturing hypothesis. Matern Child Nutrition. 2016 Oct; 12(4): 757-67. doi: 10.1111/mcn.12200.
29. Husk JS, Keim SA. Breastfeeding and dietary variety among preterm children aged 1-3 years. Appetite. 2016 January; 99: 130-7. doi:
30. Rossiter MD, Colapinto CK, Khan MK, McIsaac JL, Williams PL, Kirk SF, Veugelers PJ. Breast, formula and combination feeding in relation to childhood obesity in Nova Scotia, Canada. Maternal and child health journal. 2015 Sep 1;19(9):2048-56.
doi: 10.1007/s10995-015-1717-y.
31. Zaqout M, Michels N, Ahrens W, Börnhorst C, Molnár D, Moreno LA, Eiben G, Siani A, Papoutsou S, Veidebaum T, De Henauw S. Associations between exclusive breastfeeding and physical fitness during childhood. European journal of nutrition. 2018 Mar 1;57(2):545-55.doi: 10.1007/s00394-016-1337-3.
32. Hay G, Baerug AB. The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding up to six months. Tidsskrift for den Norske laegeforening: tidsskrift for praktisk medicin, ny raekke. 2019 May;139(9). doi: 10.4045/tidsskr.19.0105.
33. Ventura AK. Does breastfeeding shape food preferences links to obesity. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2017;70(Suppl. 3):8-15. doi: 10.1159/000478757.
34. Marseglia L, Manti S, D’Angelo G, Cuppari C, Salpietro V, Filippelli M, Trovato A, Gitto E, Salpietro C, Arrigo T. Obesity and breastfeeding: The strength of association. Women and Birth. 2015 Jun 1;28(2):81-6. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2014.12.007.
35. Kalra B, Gupta Y, Kalra S. Breast feeding: preventive therapy for type 2 diabetes. JPMA. The Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association. 2015 Oct;65(10):1134-6.
36. Binns C, Lee M, Low WY. The long-term public health benefits of breastfeeding. Asia Pacific Journal of Public Health. 2016 Jan;28(1):7-14.
doi: 10.1177/1010539515624964.
37. Westerfield KL, Koenig K, Oh R. Breastfeeding: Common Questions and Answers. American family physician. 2018 Sep 15;98(6):368-73.
38. Victora CG, Bahl R, Barros AJ, França GV, Horton S, Krasevec J, Murch S, Sankar MJ, Walker N, Rollins NC, Group TL. Breastfeeding in the 21st century: epidemiology, mechanisms, and lifelong effect. The Lancet. 2016 Jan 30;387(10017):475-90. doi:
39. Krol KM, Grossmann T. Psychological effects of breastfeeding on children and mothers. Bundesgesundheitsblatt-Gesundheitsforschung-Gesundheitsschutz. 2018 Aug 1;61(8):977-85. doi: 10.1007/s00103-018-2769-0.
40. Galvão, D. Amamentação bem sucedida: alguns fatores determinantes. Loures: Lusociência; 2006. P. 216.
IssueVol 7 No 4 (2020): Autumn QRcode
SectionReview Article(s)
breastfeeding; exclusive breastfeeding; breast; benefits

Rights and permissions
Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
How to Cite
Couto G, Dias V, Oliveira I. Benefits of exclusive breastfeeding: An integrative review. NPT. 7(4):245-254.