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The biology of human breast milk, and the policy of encouraging breastfeeding, continue to be the object of much scientific inquiry. The past year has seen several advances in these fields of nutrition, and this article reviews some of the most interesting and pertinent studies. Four general themes have been apparent in the recent literature: 1) the role of breastfeeding and breast milk in the incidence of infectious diseases; 2) the effect of breastfeeding on neurodevelopmental outcome; 3) the nutritional composition of breast milk; and 4) the determinants of breastfeeding among adolescents and ethnic minority mothers. Review of these studies will assist the office-based pediatrician in knowing the scientific rationale, and the best methodology, for the promotion of breastfeeding. Curr Opin Pediatr 1999, 11:275–280 © 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Inc.