Breastfeeding continues to make an important nutritional contribution well beyond the first year of life as a significant energy source and by providing key nutrients to the growing infant.
Studies in developing countries demonstrate that continued, frequent breastfeeding is associated with greater linear growth and further protects child health by delaying maternal fertility postpartum and reducing the child’s risk of morbidity and mortality. Continued breastfeeding may prevent dehydration in those recovering from infections and is also linked to reduced risk of childhood obesity and noncommunicable diseases, and to improved cognitive outcomes, though the causal relationship underlying the latter three associations remains unclear.
WHO recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or more.
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Other guidance documents
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