Breast Feeding

C K Lutter, Pan American Health Organization, Washington, DC, USA

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

summary of global and national initiatives to improve breast feeding practices and data on breast feeding trends in Latin America.

Nutritional demands during the first year of life are greater than at any other time. During this period, a healthy newborn triples its birth weight and doubles its length and the size of its brain. The benefits of breast feeding during this critical period of development, even in the most privileged environments, are undisputable. Consequently, there are also measurable risks for those infants not breast fed, which include increases in diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, and otitis media and short- and long-term deficits in intellectual development. Not breast feeding may also be associated with increased risk of some chronic diseases and obesity, although the evidence for these relationships is still accumulating. Not breast feeding may also be associated with increased risk of some chronic diseases. In developing countries, the risks of not breast-feeding are magnified many times over and also include increased mortality. Because of these benefits, breast feeding should be promoted as a cultural and behavioral norm rather than as interchangeable with formula feeding.

Breast feeding also benefits women's health. Breast feeding reduces the risk of ovarian and pre-menopausal breast cancer and also promotes post-partum weight loss. Because it delays the return of menses, it reduces fertility and, in the absence of modern contraceptives, increases birth intervals. This article provides a broad overview of the physiological and nutritional aspects of breast milk and behavioral aspects of breast feeding, followed by a

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