Breastfeeding: Definition, Recommendations, and Types

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What is Breastfeeding?

The breasts of women are designed to produce breast milk. When a child latches on to his or her mother's breast to draw out the breast milk, it is called breastfeeding. Breastfeeding provides newborns, infants, and children with a complete source of nutrition.  Breast milk contains a combination of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that actually adjust with a child as he or she grows.

It also contains immune-boosting antibodies, white blood cells, and enzymes to help provide protection again some of the common childhood illnesses. Breastfeeding is also known as nursing, and suckling.

Breastfeeding Recommendations

Breastfeeding is the recommended method of feeding newborns and infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and then continued breastfeeding along with the addition of solid foods for at least one year. After one year, the AAP states that a mother and her child can continue with breastfeeding for as long as they both wish to do so. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, then the continuation of breastfeeding along with solid foods for two years or longer.

Types of Breastfeeding

All women, children, and families are different, so not everyone breastfeeds in the same way.

Therefore, there are different types of breastfeeding practices. Some women breastfeed fully, some breastfeed partially, and some breastfeed minimally. Here are some of the ways women breastfeed:

Exclusive Breastfeeding: When a child is put to the breast for every feeding, and he or she is not given a bottle or any type of supplementation such as formula, water, or baby food, then the child is exclusively breastfed.

Combining Breastfeeding and Formula Feeding: Some women want to breastfeed, but they aren't able to breastfeed exclusively, or they choose not to. In these cases, a child may be breastfed as part or most of the time, but he or she is also given formula as part of the daily routine. This is called partial breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Along With Complimentary Foods: Breastfeeding with the addition of solid foods is called complementary feeding. Complimentary foods are often added to a child's diet between 4 and 6 months of age.

Comfort Nursing: Breastfeeding is about so much more than just nutrition. If a mother cannot produce enough breast milk, or if a child is older and gets most of his nutrition from solid foods, nursing at the breast is still beneficial and valuable. Comfort nursing provides emotional support, and security to a child. When a child is hurt, sick, or going through a difficult time, nursing at the breast can provide for the psychological and emotional needs of the child.

Is Pumping Breast Milk For Your Baby Considered Breastfeeding?

Some women choose to provide breast milk for their children by pumping. Pumping, even exclusive pumping, is not actually breastfeeding. It's considered breast-milk feeding. However, if a mother decides not to breastfeed, or if she can't breastfeed because her child is premature or she has to go to work or school, pumping is a wonderful way to provide a child with breast milk and the many benefits that go along with it.


American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

World Health Organization. Breastfeeding:

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