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Before 1900, most mothers breastfed their infants. Breastfeeding rates declined sharply worldwide after 1920, when evaporated cow's milk and infant formula became widely available. These were promoted as being more convenient for mothers and more nutritious than human milk. Breastfeeding rates began rising again in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
|Benefits for Infant||Benefits for Mother|
|• Perfect food for infant||• Promotes faster shrinking of the uterus|
|• Guarantees safe, fresh milk||• Promotes less postpartum bleeding|
|• Enhances immune system||• Promotes faster return to pre-pregnancy weight|
|• Protects against infectious and noninfectious diseases||• Eliminates the need for preparing and mixing formula|
|• Protects against food allergies and intolerances||• Saves money not spent on formula|
|• Decreases risk of diarrhea and respiratory infections||• Decreases risk of breast and ovarian cancer|
|• Promotes correct development of jaw, teeth, and speech patterns||• Increases bonding with infant|
|• Decreases risk of childhood obesity||• Enhances self-esteem in the maternal role|
|• Increases cognitive function||• Delays the menstrual cycle|
|• Increases bonding with mother|
Breastfeeding, or lactation, is, in fact, the ideal method of feeding and nurturing infants. Most health organizations recommend infants be exclusively breastfed during the first four to six months of life, but ideally through the first year. Premature infants also benefit from their mothers' milk. In developing countries, breastfeeding up to age two, with appropriate supplementary solid foods, maintains good nutritional status and prevents diarrhea.
Author Info: Delores C. S. James, The Gale Group Inc., Macmillan Reference USA, New York, Gale Nutrition and Well-Being A to Z, 2004
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