Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts (i.e., via lactation) rather than from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. Many specialists recommend mothers exclusively breastfeed for six months or more, without the addition of infant formula or solid food. There are conflicting views about how long exclusive breastfeeding remains beneficial.
Breastfeeding was the rule in ancient times up to recent human history, and babies were carried with the mother and fed as required. With 18th and 19th century industrialization in the Western world, mother in many urban centers began despensing with breastfeeding due to work requirement in urban Europe. Breastfeeding declined significantly from 1900 to 1960, due to improved sanitation, nutritional technologies, and increasingly negative social attitudes towards the practice. By the 1950s, the predominant attitude to breastfeeding was that is was something practiced by the uneducated and those lacking temperment of lower classes. The practice was consider old-fashion and "a little disgusting", left for those who could not afford infant formula and discouraged by medical practioners and media of the time. In fact, letters and editorials to the women's magazine Chatelaine from 1945 to as late as 1995, regarded breastfeeding with a predominately negative attitude. However, since the middle 1960s there has been a steady resurgence in the practice of breastfeeding in Canada and the US, especially among more educated, affluent women.
Under modern heath care, human breast milk is considered the healthiest form of milk for babies. Breastfeeding promotes health and helps to prevent disease. Experts agree that breastfeeding is beneficial and have concerns about the effects of artificial formulas. Artificial feeding is associated with more deaths from diarrhea in infants in both developing and developed countries. There are few exceptions, such as when the mother is taking certain drugs or is infected with human T-lymphotropic virus, or has active untreated tuberculosis. In developed countries with access to infant formula and clean drinking water, maternal HIV infection is an absolute contraindication to breastfeeding (regardless of maternal HIV viral load or antiretroviral treatment) due to the risk for mother-to-child HIV transmission.
After the addition of solid food, mothers are advised to continue breastfeeding for at least a year. The World Health Organization recommends nursing for at least two years or more. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children. Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. The AAP recommends that this be followed by supplemented breastfeeding for at least one year, while WHO recommends that supplemented breastfeeding continue two years or more. While recognizing the superiority of breastfeeding, regulating authorities also work to minimize the risks of artificial feeding.
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