This medical position article by the European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition summarises the current status of breast-feeding practice, the present knowledge on the composition of human milk, advisable duration of exclusive and partial breast-feeding, growth of the breast-fed infant, health benefits associated with breast-feeding, nutritional supplementation for breast-fed infants, and contraindications to breast-feeding. This article emphasises the important role of paediatricians in the implementation of health policies devised to promote breast-feeding.
The European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition Committee on Nutrition recognises breast-feeding as the natural and advisable way of supporting the healthy growth and development of young children. This article delineates the health benefits of breast-feeding, reduced risk of infectious diarrhoea and acute otitis media being the best documented.
Exclusive breast-feeding for around 6 months is a desirable goal, but partial breast-feeding as well as breast-feeding for shorter periods of time are also valuable. Continuation of breast-feeding after the introduction of complementary feeding is encouraged as long as mutually desired by mother and child.
The role of health care workers, including paediatricians, is to protect, promote, and support breast-feeding. Health care workers should be trained in breast-feeding issues and counselling, and they should encourage practices that do not undermine breast-feeding. Societal standards and legal regulations that facilitate breast-feeding should be promoted, such as providing maternity leave for at least 6 months and protecting working mothers.