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Pediatric Collections: Breastfeeding: Support Challenges and Benefits
Breastfeeding is a health care intervention of profound significance. Optimal breastfeeding practices, defined as exclusive breastfeeding through 6 months of age followed by continued breastfeeding with introduction of solid foods, save lives. Worldwide, in children 0–23 months, careful meta-analysis demonstrates a significantly decreased mortality rate with dose response in both all-cause and infection-related mortality among infants and children who received recommended breastfeeding, compared to those who received partial or no breastfeeding. Mothers benefit from optimal breastfeeding practices too, and recent analysis of data from high-, middle-, and low-income countries shows that universal optimal breastfeeding could prevent 20,000 deaths due to breast cancer (breastfeeding has been clearly shown to decrease risk of breast cancer in a dose-related manner). Breastfeeding may be the least expensive yet most cost-effective health intervention known.
Lydia Furman, MD, Associate Editor, Pediatrics