Definition of Breastfeeding practices

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Breastfeeding practices: The practices to be followed in breastfeeding a baby. Human milk is the preferred feeding for all infants, including premature and sick newborns, with rare exceptions. When direct breastfeeding is not possible, expressed human milk, fortified when necessary for the premature infant, should be provided. The following recommendations are based on those of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Breastfeeding should begin as soon as possible after birth, usually within the first hour. Except under special circumstances, the newborn infant should remain with the mother throughout the recovery period.

Newborns should be nursed whenever they show signs of hunger, such as increased alertness or activity, mouthing, or rooting. Crying is a late indicator of hunger. Newborns should be nursed approximately 8 to 12 times every 24 hours until they are satisfied, usually 10 to 15 minutes on each breast. In the early weeks after birth, nondemanding babies should be aroused to feed if 4 hours have elapsed since the last nursing.

No supplements (water, glucose water, formula, and so forth) should be given to breastfeeding newborns unless a medical indication exists. With sound breastfeeding knowledge and practices, supplements rarely are needed. Supplements and pacifiers should be avoided whenever possible and, if used at all, only after breastfeeding is well established.

When a baby is discharged from the hospital less than 48 hours after delivery, all breastfeeding mothers and their newborns should be seen by a pediatrician or other knowledgeable health care practitioner when the newborn is 2 to 4 days of age. In addition to determination of infant weight and general health assessment, breastfeeding should be observed and evaluated for evidence of successful breastfeeding behavior. The infant should be assessed for jaundice, adequate hydration, and age-appropriate elimination patterns (at least six urinations per day and three to four stools per day) by 5 to 7 days of age.

Exclusive breastfeeding is ideal nutrition and sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months after birth. Infants weaned before 12 months of age should not receive cow's milk feedings but should receive iron-fortified infant formula. Gradual introduction of iron-enriched solid foods in the second half of the first year should complement the breast milk diet. It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired.

In the first 6 months, water, juice, and other foods are generally unnecessary for breastfed infants. Vitamin D and iron may need to be given before 6 months of age in selected groups of infants (vitamin D for infants whose mothers are vitamin D-deficient or those infants not exposed to adequate sunlight; iron for those who have low iron stores or anemia). Fluoride should not be administered to infants during the first 6 months after birth, whether they are breast- or formula-fed. During the period from 6 months to 3 years of age, breastfed infants (and formula-fed infants) require fluoride supplementation only if the water supply is severely deficient in fluoride.


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