The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding as well as appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.
The per cent of babies exclusively breastfed for six months in the period 2000 to 2008 was highest in South-East Asia at 43 per cent. The lowest rate of exclusive breastfeeding for six months was in Europe. Rates of over 65 per cent were found in Rwanda, Madagascar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants, giving them all the nutrients needed for healthy development. As well as protecting babies from infection and disease, babies who are breastfed are also less likely to be overweight as children or adults. Lactation also benefits mothers; the WCRF/AICR Expert Report found convincing evidence that lactation protects against both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer.