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Breastfeeding and Breast Milk: Condition Information

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Breastfeeding, also called nursing, is the process of feeding human breast milk to an infant, either directly from the breast or by expressing (pumping out) the milk from the breast and bottle-feeding it to the infant. Breastfeeding and breast milk provide an infant with essential calories and nutrients.1

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Policy Statement on Breastfeeding, women who don't have health problems should exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least the first 6 months of life.2

The AAP suggests that a woman should try to breastfeed her infant for the first 12 months of life because of the benefits to both the mother and the infant.3

Although breastfeeding is the recommended method for feeding infants, and breast milk provides most of the nutrients an infant needs, it does not provide infants with adequate vitamin D.4 The current AAP-recommended daily vitamin D intake is 400 IU per day for all infants and children beginning from the first few days of life.5 Human breast milk contains a vitamin D concentration of 25 IU per liter (about 4 cups) or less. Therefore, to meet the 400 IU daily requirement, supplementation is required.


  1. National Institute of Child Health & Human Development. (2009, February 9). Breastfeeding. Retrieved April 26, 2012, from http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/Breastfeeding/ [top]
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). (2012, February 27). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129, e827–e841. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf+html External Web Site Policy [top]
  3. AAP. (2012, February 27). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 129, e827–e841. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.pdf+html External Web Site Policy [top]
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, October 20). Breastfeeding: Vitamin D supplementation. Retrieved April 27, 2012, from http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/vitamin_D.htm [top]
  5. Wagner, C. L., Greer, F. R., & American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding and Committee on Nutrition. (2008). Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics, 122(5), 1142–1152. [top]

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Last Updated Date: 11/30/2012
Last Reviewed Date: 12/19/2013
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