Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) recommend exclusive breast feeding for 6 months and continued breast feeding together with provision of safe, appropriate, and hygienically prepared complementary foods until 2 years of age or beyond. The American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding also recommends exclusive breast feeding for 6 months. Breast feeding is defined as exclusive if breast milk is the sole source of infant nutrition with no other liquids (including water) or food given, although medicinal and/or vitamin drops are permitted. Partial or mixed breast-feeding is used to describe infants who are not exclusively breast-fed. In a comprehensive review, WHO provided the scientific underpinnings of the recommended duration of exclusive breast feeding and noted that infants who were exclusively breast fed for 6 months experienced less morbidity from gastrointestinal infection than those who were exclusively breast fed for only 3 or 4 months. Also, exclusive breast feeding for 6 months, as opposed to only 3 or 4 months, resulted in no measurable deficits in growth among infants from either developing or developed countries.
The public health challenge is to support women to follow global breast feeding recommendations so as to ensure the healthiest start in life for all the world's children. Adherence to the recommended
Infant feeding behaviors
Opportunities to act on these choices
Infant feeding informa social support during and pos
tion and physical and pregnancy, childbirth, tpartum
• Familial, medical, and cultural attitudes and norms
• Demographic and economic conditions
• Commercial pressures
• National and international policies and norms
Figure 1 Determinants of infant feeding behaviors.
breast feeding behaviors or lack thereof results from a complex series of physiological and behavioral interactions between a mother and her infant—interactions that take place within a larger familial, community, and global setting (Figure 1). Although breast feeding occurs when a mother puts her child to the breast or allows her toddler to suckle, a woman's decision to breast feed and to act on this decision are dependent on a number of determinants, not all of which favor breast-feeding or are within her control. These determinants include infant feeding attitudes and norms among family members, the medical profession, peers, and employers; the availability of information and access to skilled assistance to prevent and/or address breast-feeding (BF) problems; and, during the period of BF initiation and exclusive breast feeding, nearly unrestricted access between mother and infant.
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For many years, scientists have been playing out the ingredients that make breast milk the perfect food for babies. They've discovered to day over 200 close compounds to fight infection, help the immune system mature, aid in digestion, and support brain growth - nature made properties that science simply cannot copy. The important long term benefits of breast feeding include reduced risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, and some forms of childhood cancer. The more that scientists continue to learn, the better breast milk looks.