Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts (i.e., via lactation) rather than using infant formula (i.e., via baby bottle). Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. Experts recommend that children be breastfed within one hour of birth, exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and then breastfed until age two with age-appropriate, nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for the U.S. that after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, babies should continue to breastfeed "for a year and for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby". Inadequate nutrition is an underlying cause of the deaths of more than 2.6 million children and over 100,000 mothers every year. Some working mothers express milk to be used while their child is being cared for by others.
Breastfeeding is a very personal decision. Many women have their own beliefs and feelings about whether or not they want to. “The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Associating promote breastfeeding as the best source of infant nutrition”. Breastfeeding is a complete nutrition that is easy for the baby to digest, which promotes the child eating more often due to faster digestion. It also helps in the jaw development of the baby; because breastfeeding is more difficult, it helps strengthen the child’s jaw. It also decreases allergies, decreases risk of diabetes and celiac disease and decreases the risk of SIDS. There are also controversial benefits of decreased risk for obesity in adulthood and improved cognitive development. Benefits for the mother include: helps in uterine shrinkage, decreases risk of breast cancer, decreases depression, and decreases risk of osteoporosis. It is also a bonding experience for both mother and baby and can be less expensive than formula.
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, mothers in many urban centers began dispensing with breastfeeding due to their work requirements. Breastfeeding declined significantly from 1900 to 1960, due to increasingly negative social attitudes towards the practice and the development of infant formula. From the 1960s onwards, breastfeeding experienced a revival which continues to the 2000s, though some negative attitudes towards the practice still remain.
Today many health authorities consider human breast milk the healthiest form of milk for babies. Breastfeeding promotes the health of both the mother and the infant and helps to prevent disease. Longer breastfeeding has also been associated with better mental health through childhood and into adolescence. 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, however, a few exceptions, such as when the mother is taking certain drugs, has active untreated tuberculosis or is infected with human T-lymphotropic virus. The World Health Organization recommends that national authorities in each country decide which infant feeding practice should be promoted and supported by their maternal and child health services to best avoid HIV infection transmission from a mother to her child.
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