Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the mother and infant. Breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant needs in the first six months of life.
Breastfeeding protects against diarrhoea and common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia, and may also have longer-term health benefits for the mother and child, such as reducing the risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence. Breastfeeding has also been associated with higher intelligence quotient (IQ) in children.
WHO recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, while continuing to breastfeed for up to two years or beyond.
Evidence suggests that educational interventions during pregnancy (e.g. peer counselling, lactation consultation or formal breastfeeding education) may increase the duration of breastfeeding, however, further research is needed before specific recommendations can be made.