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43. Breast-feeding

Introduction
In the 1980s and '90s, there was a steady revival of breast­feeding which had been virtually killed out by aggressive marketing by the giant multinationals producing infant formula. Even with this revival, most babies in developed countries are still bottle-fed.

This is made more poignant by the fact that bottle-feeding is more common in the lower socio-economic groups, which may indicate inadequate public health education or wrong mass education strategies.

Breast-milk is superior to formula milk, of that there is no doubt. It has several clear advantages, as we shall discuss shortly.
There are only a few contraindications to breast-feeding and these touch only a small minority of mothers.

Occasionally breast-feeding is not possible, in spite of good intentions and determined efforts by the mother. We discuss all these in this chapter.

Apart from the advantages that the baby gets by being breast-fed, the mother also benefits. Contraception is more effective; she may remain amenorrhoeic (without periods) for months; weight gained during pregnancy is lost more rapidly and more easily; and there is the important issue of bonding, which is evidently stronger with breast-feeding.

There are many variables that need to be taken into consideration when deciding whether to breast-feed or not. All these are discussed here.