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A Journal on Pediatrics, Neonatology, Adolescent Medicine,
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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Minerva Pediatrica 2002 April;54(2):113-30

language: Italian

The biological specificity and superiority of human milk. Scientific basis, guarantees and safety controls

Fanaro S.


Scientific knowledge has demonstrated that breastfeeding is the ideal method of feeding and nurturing infants and has recognised breastfeeding as primary in achieving optimal infant health, growth and development. Human milk is species-specific and offers a superior method of feeding. All other options differ markedly from it. Milk formulas are designed to mimic human milk as much as possible, but important compositional differences between human milk and formulas remain, and it is unlikely that this situation will change very soon, if ever. Thus, the breastfeed infant remains the reference model against which all alternative feeding methods are measured, with regard to health, growth and development. Human milk has a dynamic nature and varies with time postpartum, but the variations of its composition with time of lactation match the changing needs of the growing infant. The role of the pediatrician is essential in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding in the hospital, medical schools, individual practices and in the community. The purpose of this review is to describe and provide insight into the nutritional benefits, the contributions to host defence and the social and psychological benefits of maternal-infant bonding obtained by breastfeeding. This paper also summarises other substantial advantages obtained when infants are fed at the breast and describes the rare situations and medical reasons when human milk is not recommended, when alternative options should be considered, or when breastfeeding must be closely monitored. Early identification of those infants fed at the breast who have inadequate intakes is important, also to preserve breastfeeding.

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