International Breastfeeding Initiatives and their Relevance to the Current State of Breastfeeding in the United States

Marsha Walker
J Midwifery Womens Health 2007;52:549–555

Introduction

Lactation is an ancient process that predates placental gestation. It represents the normal and expected way to feed infants and young children, yet continues to suffer from cultural and commercial barriers that make it difficult for mothers to adhere to the medical recommendation to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, and to continue breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for 1 year and beyond.

Infant feeding through the ages has been subject to shifting attitudes toward the mother/child relationship, the understanding (or misunderstanding) of the process of lactation and the composition of human milk, and the escalating acceptance of the use of human milk substitutes. More than 1700 years of published Western medical advice, both ancient and current, often implies that the mother is inadequate to breastfeed her own infant or that her milk is not sufficient to sustain normal growth without being supplemented.
This is a persistent and unfortunate belief that still lingers in many hospital maternity units, where the supplementation rate of breastfed infants approaches 50%.

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