Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts (i.e., via lactation) rather than using infant formula from a baby bottle or other container. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. Experts recommend that children be breastfed within one hour of birth, exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, and then breastfed until age two with age-appropriate, nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods. Some working mothers express milk to be used while their child is being cared for by others.
Breastfeeding was the rule in ancient times up to recent human history, and babies were carried with the mother and fed as required. With 18th and 19th century industrialization in the Western world, mothers in many urban centers began dispensing with breastfeeding due to work requirement in urban Europe. Breastfeeding declined significantly from 1900 to 1960, due to improved sanitation, nutritional technologies, and increasingly negative social attitudes towards the practice. Under modern health care, human breast milk is considered the healthiest form of milk for babies. From the 1960s onwards, breastfeeding experienced a revival which continues to the 2000s, though some negative attitudes towards the practice still remain.
Breastfeeding promotes health for both mother and infant and helps to prevent disease. Longer breastfeeding has also been associated with better mental health through childhood and into adolescence. Experts agree that breastfeeding is beneficial and have concerns about the effects of artificial formulas. Artificial feeding is associated with more deaths from diarrhea in infants in both developing and developed countries. There are few exceptions, such as when the mother is taking certain drugs, has active untreated tuberculosis or is infected with human T-lymphotropic virus. The World Health Organization recommends that national authorities in each country decide which infant feeding practice should be promoted and supported by their maternal and child health services to best avoid HIV infection transmission from mother to child.