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Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding

Creator:

Kramer, M. S. and Kakuma, R.

Subject Keywords: Review of advantages of exclusive breastfeeding (no solids or liquids besides human milk, other than vitamins and medications) for six months
Topic: Chronic Airflow Obstruction (CAO)
Chronic Conditions
Conditions
Chronic Conditions
Type: Article
Region: International (other)
Description:

Although the health benefits of breastfeeding are widely acknowledged, opinions and recommendations are strongly divided on the optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Much of the debate has centered on the so-called 'weanling's dilemma' in developing countries: the choice between the known protective effect of exclusive breastfeeding against infectious morbidity and the (theoretical) insufficiency of breast milk alone to satisfy the infant's energy and micronutrient requirements beyond four months of age. Objectives To assess the effects on child health, growth, and development, and on maternal health, of exclusive breastfeeding for six months versus exclusive breastfeeding for three to four months with mixed breastfeeding (introduction of complementary liquid or solid foods with continued breastfeeding) thereafter through six months. The authors selected all internally-controlled clinical trials and observational studies comparing child or maternal health outcomes with exclusive breastfeeding for six or more months versus exclusive breastfeeding for at least three to four months with continued mixed breastfeeding until at least six months. Studies were stratified according to study design (controlled trials versus observational studies), provenance (developing versus developed countries), and timing of compared feeding groups (three to seven months versus later). The authors identified 22 independent studies meeting the selection criteria: 11 from developing countries (two of which were controlled trials in Honduras) and 11 from developed countries (all observational studies). Definitions of exclusive breastfeeding varied considerably across studies. Neither the trials nor the observational studies suggest that infants who continue to be exclusively breastfed for six months show deficits in weight or length gain, although larger sample sizes would be required to rule out modest differences in risk of undernutrition. In developing-country settings where newborn iron stores may be suboptimal, the evidence suggests that exclusive breastfeeding without iron supplementation through six months may compromise hematologic status. Based on studies from Belarus, Iran, and Nigeria, infants who continue exclusive breastfeeding for six months or more appear to have a significantly reduced risk of gastrointestinal and (in the Iranian and Nigerian studies) respiratory infection. No significant reduction in risk of atopic eczema, asthma, or other atopic outcomes has been demonstrated in studies from Finland, Australia, and Belarus. Data from the two Honduran trials and from observational studies from Bangladesh and Senegal suggest that exclusive breastfeeding through six months is associated with delayed resumption of menses and, in the Honduran trials, more rapid postpartum weight loss in the mother.

Date:

21/01/2002

Rights: © The Cochrane Collaboration
Suggested citation:

Kramer, M. S. and Kakuma, R.. (2002) Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding [Online]. Available from: http://publichealthwell.ie/node/4418 [Accessed: 19th November 2019].

  

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