Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, Prof, PhD
In this section, Donna Geddes and Foteini Kakulas (see chapter 7), describe the beneficial bioactive properties of human milk that oﬀer optimal infant nutrition, protection against an array of communicable and non-communicable diseases, as well as developmental benefits. They fully justify the notion that human milk is equivalent to personalized medicine for infants and underscore that breastfeeding also oﬀers major health advantages to women including a reduction in risk of ovarian and breast cancer as well as diabetes and heart disease.
Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook in chapter 8, examines how human milk relates to psychological function in women and identifies psycho-social barriers for breastfeeding that need to be addressed by breastfeeding promotion programmes. These findings are fully supported by Amy Brown and Maureen Minchin in their respective chapters on the social aspects of breastfeeding (see chapter 9) and the history of breastfeeding (see chapter 14).
Amy Brown concludes that breastfeeding mothers report experiencing less stress and negative affect in their daily lives when compared with formula-feeding mothers and that the association between breastfeeding and maternal depression appears to be complex and bidirectional.
In chapter 10, Ashley Fox synthesises the three main frameworks from which breastfeeding promotion policy has been developed: the women’s rights, children’s rights and global human rights. Understanding how these frameworks, alone or in combination, influence diﬀerent breastfeeding promotion policies and what impact if any they have on advancing or hindering optimal infant feeding behaviours globally is a complex area that deserves to be further researched.
As indicated by Subhash Pokhrel (see chapter 11), lack of breastfeeding support costs billions of dollars to national economies every year, thus it is important that these tools and services are considered part of the essential packages covered by health care systems.
Rebecca Mannel (see chapter 12), highlights the need for women to have access to diverse tools and expert services to be able to feed human milk to their children. Specifically, women who need to extract breast milk should have access to eﬀective breast pumps, women should have more access to deliver in Baby Friendly Hospitals and to skilled lactation support to manage a breastfeeding problem.
In chapter 13, Rowena Merritt presents an in depth analysis of the WHO International Code for Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and explains why even in the few instances when the code has been enforced it has not yielded the expected results. Merritt argues that this is because formula companies invest very large sums of money marketing their products directly to mothers through mass media, printed advertisements, incentives, free samples, social media, and health providers. Furthermore, she posits that learning from the marketing strategies from infant formula companies could be used to promote breastfeeding through sound social marketing approaches.
This section concludes with a chapter from Maureen Minchin (see chapter 14) who provides a view of breastfeeding throughout history and highlights the importance of lactation for infant survival.