Cochrane Summaries

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Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding

Kramer MS, Kakuma R
Published Online: 
15 August 2012

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months (versus three to four months, with continued mixed breastfeeding thereafter) reduces gastrointestinal infection and helps the mother lose weight and prevent pregnancy but has no long-term impact on allergic disease, growth, obesity, cognitive ability, or behaviour.

The results of two controlled trials and 21 other studies suggest that exclusive breastfeeding (no solids or liquids besides human milk, other than vitamins and medications) for six months has several advantages over exclusive breastfeeding for three to four months followed by mixed breastfeeding. These advantages include a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection, more rapid maternal weight loss after birth, and delayed return of menstrual periods. No reduced risks of other infections, allergic diseases, obesity, dental caries, or cognitive or behaviour problems have been demonstrated. A reduced level of iron has been observed in developing-country settings.

This record should be cited as: 
Kramer MS, Kakuma R. Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD003517. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003517.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
17 June 2011