Breastfeeding: Common Questions and Answers

Am Fam Physician. 2018 Sep 15;98(6):368-373.


All major health organizations recommend breastfeeding as the optimal source of infant nutrition, with exclusive breastfeeding recommended for the first six months of life. After six months, complementary foods may be introduced. Most organizations recommend breastfeeding for at least one year, and the World Health Organization recommends a minimum of two years. Maternal benefits of breastfeeding include decreased risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Infants who are breastfed have a decreased risk of atopic dermatitis and gastroenteritis, and have a higher IQ later in life. Additional benefits in infants have been noted in observational studies. Clinicians can support postdischarge breastfeeding by assessing milk production and milk transfer; evaluating an infant's latch to the breast; identifying maternal and infant anatomic variations that can lead to pain and poor infant weight gain; knowing the indications for frenotomy; and treating common breastfeeding-related infections, dermatologic conditions, engorgement, and vasospasm. The best way to assess milk supply is by monitoring infant weight and stool output during wellness visits. Proper positioning improves latch and reduces nipple pain. Frenotomy is controversial but may reduce pain in the short term. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends primary care interventions to support breastfeeding and improve breastfeeding rates and duration.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Breast Feeding / trends
  • Child Development
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Nipples / injuries
  • Social Support
  • Time Factors