Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Women’s Health

pp 175-177


  • Karin Small Wurapa

Human breast milk is now widely acknowledged to be the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of physiological and psychological benefits for both the infant and mother. Through the ages, humans have been dependent on it for its sustenance and even contraceptive attributes. Research supports the observation of benefits for infants’ growth, immunity, and development, as well as reduced financial cost to the family. Prevention of diarrheal diseases and even dental cavities are just some of its protective powers. Likewise, breast-feeding has been shown to improve maternal health, including reduction in postpartum bleeding, earlier return to prepregnancy weight, reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer, and reduced risk of osteoporosis. Yet, in spite of these advantages, ambivalence surrounds the practice because of the myriad of factors that influence a woman’s ability and decision to commit to breast-feeding.

Pregnancy and Preparation

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