Children 0–2 years

Infant nutrition influences blood pressure later in life

Scientific evidence suggests that environmental factors acting early in life may affect blood pressure in adult life.

A study in Britain in 2004 supported earlier studies on infant nutrition and blood pressure that show a small reduction in systolic blood pressure in children breast-fed compared to those who were bottle-fed.

Other advantages of breastfeeding

  • Breast milk is nutritionally superior to any formula alternative
  • Breast milk is safe and always fresh
  • Breast milk contains many anti-infectious factors and immune cells
  • Breast milk is the least allergenic of any infant food
  • Breast milk contains DHA which is important for growth and development of the foetal central nervous system and the retina.
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to be overfed.
  • Breastfeeding costs less than commercial infant formulas currently available.
  • Breastfeeding promotes close mother and child contact.

Breast feeding can also confer benefits to maternal health in later life. Studies at Pittsburgh University 2009 have found that women who breast-fed are at a lower risk than those who have not from developing high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease decades later when they are in menopause.

One possible explanation for this occurring is the hormone oxytocin. This is important for milk production and is known to also relax blood vessels, making them more flexible and possibly more resilient to plague development and narrow of arteries.

Perceived barriers to breastfeeding

Restricted Freedom/ Independence:

  • Ties mothers to home
  • Reduces mother’s ability to go shopping or visiting friends
  • Others can only provide minimal help


  • Not only mothers but family and friends can also be embarrassed
  • Breastfeeding in public is considered a breach of cultural taboo

Return to work:

  • Ease and speed of returning to work is impaired

Other children:

  • May reduce the amount of attention spent on older children

Family support:

  • Feeding decisions are strongly influenced by views of family and friends
  • Practical support is limited
  • Bonding


  • Difficulty with timing and the establishment of a routine

Lack of public facilities:

  • If any public facilities provided they are alongside changing facilities

Social Isolation:

  • Lack of freedom and independence: the changing role of women in society and the higher proportion of women in the workforce has allowed women to value freedom and independence
  • Problems are associated with return to work
  • There is a perceived inconvenience of breastfeeding: with respect to the commitment that breastfeeding requires as well as the difficulties encountered in establishing a feeding routine.
  • Potential lack of societal support
  • Inadequacy of public facilities
  • Perceived embarrassment in others: this is a major barrier to breastfeeding as not only do women have to come to terms with their own embarrassment, but also that of others.

Should you have any questions or concerns regarding infant feeding, pregnancy or lactation requirements then do contact us today.


B Stewart-Knox, K Gardiner, M Wright. What is the problem with Breastfeeding? A qualitative analysis of infant feeding perceptions. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 2003; 16(4): 256-275.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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