There is no doubt that breast milk provides the best possible nutrition for your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding as solids are introduced for 1 year or longer as “mutually desired by mother and infant.” The World Health Organization agrees—saying moms can breastfeed babies for up to 2 years of age and beyond with appropriate complementary foods. No pressure! Of course you probably already know this from reading about breastfeeding even before your baby was born, wondering what it would feel like to have him or her there, sucking away, cozy and sweet.

Then she was born and chances are the experience was a little harder than you anticipated. Engorgement. Worries about weight loss. Raw skin. Pain. But maybe also joy. And awe—your body just makes this stuff and it’s exactly what your baby needs. Just as biologically incredible as pregnancy. And then it gets into a rhythm. And if you’re lucky, you react well to being bathed in the intoxicating hormones breastfeeding releases.

They’re released for a reason—to entice you to continue. Breastfeeding provides advantages for both mom and baby and is the foundation of a lifetime of good health. That stuff you’re producing without even really trying (well, ok, you’re drinking a lot of water) is full of the complex micro- and macronutrients, including proteins, fats, carbohydrates, enzymes, hormones, vitamins, and minerals, that are essential for your wee one’s development. In addition to nourishing your baby, breast milk supports her developing immune system by providing antibodies. It promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach, protects against gastrointestinal and other infections. It helps reduce newborn’s mortality. It has even been shown to help reduce the rates of later health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma.

The number and type of vitamins found in breast milk are determined, in part, by what you’re eating. This is one of the many reasons it’s essential for a mom to eat a broad mix of good nutrient dense foods not only when pregnant, but beyond. Most lactation consultants and pediatricians suggest moms continue to take prenatal vitamins while nursing.

Breastfeeding isn’t an option for all families. If it isn’t for you and yours, no guilt needed. Thankfully formulas today are carefully, well, formulated, to provide your baby with all of the nutrients he or she needs.