Breastfeeding: The Essential Principles

Latha Chandran, Polina Gelfer
Pediatrics in Review. 2006;27:409-417


After completing this article, readers should be able to:

  1. Understand the physiology of lactation.
  2. Discuss the biologic specificity of human milk.
  3. Delineate the benefits of breastfeeding for the infant, the mother, and the community.
  4. Know relative and absolute contraindications to breastfeeding.
  5. Describe current recommendations for breastfeeding.


  • Physiology of Lactation
  • Composition of Human Milk
    • Colostrum
    • Mature Milk
  • Benefits of Breastfeeding
    • Child Health Benefits
    • Anti-infective Properties of Human Milk
    • Protection from Chronic Disease
    • Benefits for the Mother
  • Contraindications to Breastfeeding
    • Medical Disorders
    • Viruses
    • Medications
  • Conditions That Are Not Contraindications to Breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding Considerations in Normal and Special Situations
    • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations on Breastfeeding for Healthy Term Infants
    • Nursing While Pregnant
    • Breastfeeding Newborns Who Have Special Needs
  • Practical Issues in Breastfeeding
    • Guidelines for Collection and Storage of Expressed Human Milk
    • Banking Human Milk


Breastfeeding ensures the best possible physical health as well as developmental and psychosocial outcomes for infants. Overwhelming evidence supports strong recommendations to increase and sustain breastfeeding in the population. The biologic and immunologic markers in human milk, such as the specific antibodies and cellular factors as listed in Table 2, are very important to infant health, as are the various nutrients. There are very few absolute contraindications to breastfeeding. It is imperative that pediatricians and other medical care practitioners have an in-depth understanding of the innumerable benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should become a cultural norm among all women, regardless of education and socioeconomic status.

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