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Humans are scientifically classed as mammals (from the Latin root mamma, meaning breast or udder), a clade based on the shared act of nourishing offspring with milk. Breastfeeding, however, is a term used to describe human lactation alone. While a natural act, the context of breastfeeding is socially constructed. The decency, importance, and means of breastfeeding are controversial issues that tie into debates regarding preventative health, discrimination, civility, and parenting, among other issues. The entry discusses breastfeeding recommendations, benefits, and techniques and controversies regarding breastfeeding.

Timing and Duration

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that mothers initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after a child’s birth. At that time, and for the first 2 or 3 days postpartum, the mother expresses colostrum—a thin, yellow antibody-rich fluid. Some ...

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