Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding




    Exclusive breastfeeding is known to confer optimal health benefits to infants, and young children, and may have life long beneficial effects. It is however the duration of exclusive breastfeeding that has been the subject of debate for a number of years.


    The long-standing debate of whether the duration should be four to six months or six months was finally settled with the release of the “Cochrane” review headed by Michael Kramer of Mc Gill University. Using wide-ranging literature searches that produced 2,668 relevant studies and additional unpublished data from experts in the field, approximately 3,000 studies were reviewed. After applying rigorous selection criteria of consistency and methodology, the data was narrowed to about 20 studies.


The review determined that:


Ø      breastmilk supply is sufficient for six months

Ø      the infant’s need does not outgrow the supply

Ø      infants experience less morbidity related to gastrointestinal infections

Ø      no deficits in growth are observed in either the developing or the developed world

Ø      mothers have longer lactational amenorrhea.


     “Although infants should still be managed individually so that insufficient growth or other adverse outcomes are not ignored and appropriate interventions are provided, the available evidence demonstrates no apparent risks in recommending as a general policy, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.”.

—Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Cochrane Database

Syst Rev CD003517, 2002




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