The NICHD seeks to understand the aspects of breastfeeding and breast milk that lead to optimal health for mothers and infants and optimal development for infants. To meet its goals, the NICHD supports and conducts research that addresses breastfeeding practices and initiatives throughout the nation and abroad.
Some of the projects related to breastfeeding and breast milk include (but are not limited to):
- Understanding the full range of benefits from breastfeeding and breast milk for mother and infant and their short-, medium-, and long-term influences on health and disease
- Examining the social, cultural, and economic impacts of breastfeeding in the U.S. and worldwide, as well as the factors that positively and negatively influence breastfeeding decisions
- Elucidating the nutritional and biochemical components of breast milk and how they might prevent, treat, or reduce the severity of various diseases
- Identifying nutritional and other components of breast milk that might be lacking and creating and evaluating strategies to ensure that infants receive these components in various settings
- Understanding the effects of diseases such as malaria, and of chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, on breast milk, breastfeeding practices, and treatments for diseases
- Collaborating with agencies and organizations to raise awareness of the scientific evidence that underlies breastfeeding recommendations
The Institute also supports efforts to meet the public health goals outlined by the HHS Healthy People 2020initiative, such as increasing the number of infants who are breastfed, through various awareness and outreach efforts. For more information on the Healthy People 2020 goals for breastfeeding, visit http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/maternal-infant-and-child-health/objectives.