Work Group on Breastfeeding
PEDIATRICS Vol. 100 No. 6 December 1997, pp. 1035-1039


This policy statement on breastfeeding replaces the previous policy statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics, reflecting the considerable advances that have occurred in recent years in the scientific knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding, in the mechanisms underlying these benefits, and in the practice of breastfeeding. This document summarizes the benefits of breastfeeding to the infant, the mother, and the nation, and sets forth principles to guide the pediatrician and other health care providers in the initiation and maintenance of breastfeeding. The policy statement also delineates the various ways in which pediatricians can promote, protect, and support breastfeeding, not only in their individual practices but also in the hospital, medical school, community, and nation.

Extensive research, especially in recent years, documents diverse and compelling advantages to infants, mothers, families, and society from breastfeeding and the use of human milk for infant feeding. These include health, nutritional, immunologic, developmental, psychological, social, economic, and environmental benefits.

Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding and is species-specific; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it. The breastfed infant is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development, and all other short- and long-term outcomes.

Epidemiologic research shows that human milk and breastfeeding of infants provide advantages with regard to general health, growth, and development, while significantly decreasing risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases. Research in the United States, Canada, Europe, and other developed countries, among predominantly middle-class populations, provides strong evidence that human milk feeding decreases the incidence and/or severity of diarrhea,1-5 lower respiratory infection,6-9 otitis media,3,10-14 bacteremia,15,16 bacterial meningitis,15,17 botulism,18 urinary tract infection,19 and necrotizing enterocolitis.20,21 There are a number of studies that show a possible protective effect of human milk feeding against sudden infant death syndrome,22-24 insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus,25-27 Crohn’s disease,28,29 ulcerative colitis,29 lymphoma,30,31 allergic diseases,32-34 and other chronic digestive diseases.35-37 Breastfeeding has also been related to possible enhancement of cognitive development.

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