This paper reviews the literature on the incidence and duration of breast-feeding in various countries, the volume and composition of breast milk, the health and nutrition of breast-fed babies as judged by growth and morbidity, maternal nutritional requirements during lactation, and the effect of prolonged lactation on maternal health. It appears that lactation can be as well sustained by impoverished as by affluent mothers, and that even in communities where malnutrition is common the average growth of infants is satisfactory up to the age of about 3 months on a diet of breast milk alone. Breast milk appears to have specific anti-infective properties, but prolonged breast-feeding will not prevent infections among older infants reared in a poor environment. The authors believe that breast-feeding is the best form of nutrition for the young infant and deplore its decline in modern industrial societies. The recommendations of various FAO/WHO Expert Groups on nutritional intakes during lactation are summarized. The need for an increased daily energy intake of 4.2 MJ (1 000 kcal) is questioned, and an increase of 2.5 MJ (600 kcal) is suggested. Data on the effect of prolonged lactation on the health of the mother are scanty; body weight appears to be maintained even among poorly nourished mothers. The authors stress the need for well-planned and technically adequate studies of the material and psychological factors involved in breast feeding
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