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The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Most women are able to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding should be promoted in a sensitive manner, and information given about the benefits to both mother and baby, evidence for which is well-established, as it is for the risks of not breastfeeding. (UNICEF) Babies who breastfeed are at lower risk of:
Benefits to mothers
These illnesses all represent the greatest threats to women's health across all ages. Evidence also suggests that breastfeeding has a positive impact on mother-baby relationships, conducive to the baby's health emotional, social and physical development.
In the UK, the initial breastfeeding rate is 81 per cent, according to the five-yearly Infant Feeding Survey, 2010. (The survey scheduled for 2015 was cancelled). Key findings of the survey were:
Breast feeding rates in the US are similar to those in the UK.
The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative standards recommend healthcare professionals to: 1. Support pregnant women to recognise the importance of breastfeeding and early relationships for the health and well-being of their baby. 2. Support all mothers and babies to initiate a close relationship and feeding soon after birth. 3. Enable mothers to get breastfeeding off to a good start. 4. Support mothers to make informed decisions regarding the introduction of food or fluids other than breastmilk. 5. Support parents to have a close and loving relationship with their baby.
Early feeding contributes to the success of breastfeeding. The first feed should be supervised by the midwife. It should proceed without pain and baby allowed to terminate the feed spontaneously.
Certain pre-existing conditions, most notably HIV, are a contra-indication to breastfeeding due to the risk of vertical transmission of the infection from the mother to the baby.
See also, Lactation
The Practising Midwife featured articles
Infant feeding 1. Anatomy and physiology 2012; 15(9): 38 - 41 Author: Joyce Marshall
Infant feeding 3. Skills to support infant feeding 2012; 15(11): 43- 46 Author: Joyce Marshall
Breastfeeding and relationship building: turning evidence into practice 2014; 18(2): 29 - 31 Author: Francesca Entwistle
Bartick M, Reinhold A. (2010) The burden of suboptimal breastfeeding in the United States: a pediatric cost analysis. Pediatrics,125(5), e1048-56. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20368314
Health & Social Care Information Centre (2012). Infant Feeding Survey - UK, 2010. Available at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/article/2021/Website-Search?productid=9569&q=infant+feeding+survey&sort=Relevance&size=10&page=1&area=both
UNICEF. Health benefits of breastfeeding. http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/About-Baby-Friendly/Breastfeeding-in-the-UK/Health-benefits/
UNICEF UK (2012) Guide to the Baby Friendly Initiative standards. http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Baby_Friendly/Guidance/Baby_Friendly_guidance_2012.pdf Patient. Infant feeding (professional reference). http://patient.info/doctor/infant-feeding
Information/Resources for patients
Newson L. (2013) Breast feeding (information for patients). http://patient.info/health/breast-feeding
BFN - The Breastfeeding Network. www.breastfeedingnetwork.org.uk
La Leche League GB. www.laleche.org.uk National Childbirth Trust www.nct.org.uk
NHS Choices. Pregnancy and baby guide. http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-and-baby-care.aspx