Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Acceptable medical reasons for use of breast-milk substitutes

World Health Organization

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Publication details

Number of pages: 6
Publication date: 2009
Languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese



Almost all mothers can breastfeed successfully -- initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life, breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continuing breastfeeding (along with giving appropriate complementary foods) up to two years of age or beyond. Positive effects of breastfeeding on the health of infants and mothers are observed in all settings.

Nevertheless, a small number of health conditions of the infant or the mother may justify recommending that she does not breastfeed temporarily or permanently. Whenever stopping breastfeeding is considered, the benefits of breastfeeding should be weighed against the risks posed by the presence of the specific conditions listed.

This list of acceptable medical reasons for temporary or long-term use of breast-milk substitutes is made available as an independent tool for health professionals working with mothers and newborn infants, as part of the Baby-friendly Hospitals Initiative.

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