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A mother breastfeeding her baby.

About Breastfeeding and Breast Milk

Breastfeeding, also called nursing, is the process of feeding a mother’s breast milk to her infant, either directly from the breast or by expressing (pumping out) the milk from the breast and bottle-feeding it to the infant. Breastfeeding and breast milk provide an infant with calories and nutrients, including macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).1

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Policy Statement on Breastfeeding, women who don't have health problems should exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least the first 6 months after birth.2

The AAP suggests that, if possible, a woman should try to continue breastfeeding her infant for up to 12 months, while adding other foods, because of the benefits to both the mother and the infant.2

Although breastfeeding is the recommended method for feeding infants, and breast milk provides most of the nutrients an infant needs, it does not provide infants with adequate vitamin D.3 The current AAP-recommended daily vitamin D intake is 400 IU per day for all infants and children beginning from the first few days after birth.4 Human breast milk contains a vitamin D concentration of 25 IU per liter (about 4 cups) or less. Therefore, to meet the 400 IU daily requirement, supplementation is required.

Citations

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  1. Ballard, O., & Morrow, A. L. (2013). Human milk composition: Nutrients and bioactive factors. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 60(1), 49–74. Retrieved June 21, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3586783 [top]
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. (2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129(3), e827–e841. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf+html External Web Site Policy [top]
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, October 20). Breastfeeding: Vitamin D supplementation. Retrieved June 1, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/vitamin_D.htm [top]
  4. Wagner, C. L., Greer, F. R., & American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding and Committee on Nutrition. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 122(5), 1142–1152. Retrieved November 4, 2016, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/122/5/1142 External Web Site Policy [top]

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