Human Milk Research

Human milk: optimal nutrition – and so much more

Human milk is the best possible nutrition for all infants. It provides the optimal nutritional balance for each individual infant, being specifically adapted and uniquely formulated to fully support their growth and development needs for the first six months of life. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for two years and beyond1.

Breastfeeding has many benefits for infants

The unique composition of human milk provides specific short- and long-term health benefits for the infant including:

  • Protection against infections and illnesses2–7
  • Protection against allergies and asthma8–15
  • Optimal growth and maturation1,16–20
  • Optimal brain and eye development21–23
  • Optimal cognitive development24–26

Breastfeeding has positive effects on mothers too

Alongside the numerous benefits for infants, breastfeeding also has many benefits for the mother. In the short term, breastfeeding can help with post-partum weight loss27,28, and may have a positive influence on mental health.29–31 In the long term, breastfeeding mothers have a reduced risk of reproductive cancers32–35 as well as a reduced risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, including diabetes and hypertension.36–39

Breastfeeding provides key health benefits for infants and can have positive health consequences for the mother.

Human milk: psychological and physiological benefits for the first six months – and beyond.

The healthy growth and development of children is firmly rooted in their nutritional intake during their first 1000 days of life. Breastfeeding is the best possible nutrition an infant can receive, with the WHO recommending human milk as the sole source of nutrition for the first six months of life. But the benefits of breastfeeding go far beyond the delivery of nutrition. Breastfeeding enhances not only the bond between infant and mother,40,41 but also both of their emotional development.41–43 In addition, human milk also has a variety of physiological benefits, including positive influence on the infant’s immune system and the development of a healthy, functioning gut, as well as enabling the development of taste preferences later in life.44–46

The documents below outline our conviction that human milk is the optimal nutrition for infant feeding.

1.
WHO. Global strategy on infant and young child feeding. 2003.
2.
WHO. Kramer MS and  and Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding (Review). 2001.
3.
WHO. Infant and young child feeding data by country. [Online]. Available: http://www.who.int/nutrition/databases/infantfeeding/countries/en/.
4.
Sachdev, et al. Lancet, 1991;337:929-33.
5.
WHO. Breastfeeding and the use of water and teas. 1997.
6.
Agostoni, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2009:49:112-25.
7.
Horta, et al. Food Nutr Res, 2013;57:20823.
8.
WHO, Kramer, et al. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding (Review). 2001.
9.
Victora, et al. Lancet Glob Health, 2013;3(4):e199-e205.
10.
Lamberti, et al. BMC Public Health, 2011;11Suppl 3:S15.
11.
Rebhan, et al. Acta Pædiatrica,2009;98(6): 974-80.
12.
Agostoni, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2009;49(1):112-25.
13.
Michaelsen, et al. Gesundheitswesen, 2008;70(S 1):S20-S1.
14.
Gluckman, et al. N Engl J Med, 2008;359:61–73.
15.
WHO. Implementing the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding: Geneva, 3-5 February 2003.
16.
Jansen et al. Dev Rev, 2008;28:503-21.
17.
Hahn-Holbrook, et al. Womens Health Psychol, 2012;17:414-39. .
18.
Dias, et al. J Affect Disord, 2015;171:142-54.
19.
Stuebe, et al. J Perinatol, (2009) 30(3), 155-62.
20.
Susman, et al. Am J Psych, 1988;145(4):498-501.
21.
Brunton et al. J Neuroendocrinol 2008; 20(6): 764-76.
22.
Handbook of Attachment, Second Edition: Theory, Research, and Clinical; Jude Cassidy & Philip R Shaver; Editie 2, Uitgever Guilford Press, 2008; ISBN 1606235842, 9781606235843.
23.
Lönnerdal BO. J Nutr, 1986;116(4):499-513.
24.
Mennella JA. Textbook on human lactation. Amarillo, TX: Hartmann PE, Hale T, editors, Hale Publishing, 2007:403–14.
25.
Mennella JA, et al. Pediatr, 2001;107:e88 .
26.
Hanson, et al. Ann N Y Acad Sci 2003;987:199-206.
27.
Wiklund, et al. Public Health Nutrition, 2012;15:67-74.
28.
McClure et al. Obesity (Siver Spring), 2011;19:2205-13.
29.
Dias et al. J Affect Dis, 2015;171:142-54.
30.
Susman et al. Am J Psychiatr 1988; 145(4): 498-501.
31.
Brunton et al. J Neuroendocrinol 2008; 20(6):764-76.
32.
Stuebe et al. J Perinatol, 2009;30(3):155-62.
33.
Ip S, et al. Breastfeeding Med, 2009;4(S1):S-17.
34.
Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer. Lancet, 2002;360(9328):187-95.
35.
Luan et al. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;98(4):1020-31.
36.
Dewey KG, et al. Am J Clin Nutr, 1993;58(2):162-66.
37.
Chouwdhury Acta Paediatr 2015.
38.
Schwarz EB, et al. Am J Med, 2010;123(9), 863-e1.
39.
Stuebe AM, et al. J Am Med Assoc, 2005;294(20):2601-2610.
40.
Jansen, et al. Developmental review 2008;28:503-521.
41.
Hahn-Hobrook, et al. Women’s health Psychology 2012;17:414-439.
42.
Anderson, et al. Pediatrics 2011;129(1):132-140.
43.
Handbook of Attachment, Second Edition. Theory, Research and Clinical, Jude Cassidy & Phillip R Shaver, Edite 2, Utgever Guilford Press, 2006; ISBN 1606235842, 9781606235843.
44.
Lonnerdal BO. J Nutr, 1986;116(4):499-513.
45.
Vaglio, et al. Communicative & integrative Biology 2009;2-3;297-281.
46.
Cooke, et al. Appetite 2011;57(3):808-811.