Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 December 2009
Breastfeeding is the gold standard and strongly preferred method of feeding healthy term infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends human milk as the exclusive nutrient source for feeding full-term infants for the first 6 months after birth and indicates that it should be continued with the addition of solid foods, until 12 months of life. Likewise, the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends exclusive breastfeeding for a minimum of 4 months and suggests that it may continue for up to 2 years and beyond. The duration of exclusive breastfeeding by the latter authoritative body is currently under review. Recently the World Health Organization made the recommendation that full-term infants be exclusively breastfed until the introduction of complementary foods at 6 months with continued breastfeeding thereafter. The scientific rationale for recommending breastfeeding as the preferred feeding choice is extensively reviewed elsewhere in this book.
In the event that breastfeeding is contraindicated or a mother chooses not to breastfeed, a commercially prepared infant formula is the next best option. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that when breastfeeding is not initiated or is discontinued before an infant's first birthday, a standard cow's milk-based formula is the feeding of choice for term-born infants. Canadian Health officials recommend use of cow's milk-based, iron-fortified formulas until 9–12 months of age. Available data suggest that approximately 70% of North American women currently initiate breastfeeding. At 6 months postpartum, however, only 32.5% of American women are still breastfeeding.