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close this bookFood and Nutrition Bulletin Volume 01, Number 1, 1978 (UNU, 1978, 53 pages)
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View the documentRevision and updating of PAG guidelines
View the documentAnalytical review of information on breast-feeding world-wide: trends, nutritional and health values, and socio-economic significance
View the documentGoals, processes, and indicators for food and nutrition policy and planning
View the documentRegional training programme on food and nutrition planning
View the documentImprovement of nutritional quality of cereal and food legumes by breeding
View the documentUN University world hunger programme associated institutions
View the documentConocimientos Actuales en NutriciĆ³n: Spanish version of Present Knowledge in Nutrition

Analytical review of information on breast-feeding world-wide: trends, nutritional and health values, and socio-economic significance

In the spring of 1977, a small group of MIT faculty and graduate students, concerned by widely publicized and conflicting information and misinformation on the trends and significance of breast-feeding practices, sought support for an objective review of reliable published and unpublished information on this subject. Aware of efforts by the World Health Organization and other specialized groups to collect such information, the MIT group felt that a nonaligned, multidisciplinary body made up of medical and non-medical nutritionists, food scientists, economists, anthropologists, and persons in allied disciplines, could best take the available information and put it into a factual and objective context, without being beholden to the special interests of any particular group.

Because internal resources at MIT were grossly inadequate for such a study, funds were sought from a number of sources, but always with the insistence that the group would have complete freedom in analysis and publication of data. An unrestricted grant of $50,000 has been received, and additional support is being sought from foundations, government agencies, and private groups.

The study will attempt to determine, from available published and reliable unpublished information, the status of present breast-feeding practices, discernible trends, and such causal factors of these trends as can be substantiated. The study will examine the importance of breast-feeding in satisfying the nutritional requirements of infants, and its relation to the nutrition and health of the mother. This will include information on the significance of breast-feeding to the infant's physical and psycho-social growth and development. The study will be concerned with the nutritional adequacy of human breast-milk relative to the changing needs of the child, and with the timing of supplementary feeding in relation to both to needs and environmental conditions. The larger topic of infant feeding after full weaning will not be covered.

The study will deal with the evidence concerning biochemical characteristics of human breast-milk and the factors that modulate its composition; the physiological factors associated with success or failure of lactation; psychological issues of mother-child interrelationships; and the macro- and micro-economic significance of breast-feeding. It will consider the relationship between breast-feeding and fertility and the consequent demographic implications. it will also examine the relationship of breast-feeding to over-all health problems in developing countries, particularly the role of breast-feeding in reducing the frequency and severity of infections. Information on the relation of breast-feeding to health problems in industrialized countries, such as obesity, coronary heart disease, and allergies, will also be reviewed.

All available data from the properly conducted field studies of current trends in breast-feeding behaviour will be considered. Among the possible causative factors to be reviewed will be changes in availability of commercial formulas and accompanying marketing practices, urbanization and industrialization, availability and nature of health services, hospital delivery practices, the influence of physicians and health-care workers, social-policy legislation, opportunities for women outside the home, and other sociological and psychological factors affecting the mother.

The MIT study group has received limited outside assistance to date. In particular, an expert advisory group of distinguished and experienced research workers in the field of infant nutrition was convened, under the auspices of the Nutrition Foundation, for two days in Cambridge. This group reviewed the plans for the study, listened to summaries of data thus far reviewed, and made many valuable suggestions regarding additional sources of information and the interpretation of the research data base. The responsibility for the final report and its conclusions, however, remains entirely with the MIT group.

The ultimate goal of the project is to prepare a monograph draft by the end of 1978 that can be widely distributed to interested persons and groups throughout the world for comment and criticism. After these comments and criticisms have been received and taken into account, formal publication will be arranged.

Anyone with relevant information is urged to make it available to: the Breast-feeding Analytical Review Study, MIT, 20B-202, Cambridge, MA 02139.