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Am J Public Health. 2003 Dec;93(12):2000-10.

Low breastfeeding rates and public health in the United States.

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Department of Social Medicine, Ohio University, Athens 45701, USA.


The medical community has orchestrated breastfeeding campaigns in response to low breastfeeding rates twice in US history. The first campaigns occurred in the early 20th century after reformers linked diarrhea, which caused the majority of infant deaths, to the use of cows' milk as an infant food. Today, given studies showing that numerous diseases and conditions can be prevented or limited in severity by prolonged breastfeeding, a practice shunned by most American mothers, the medical community is again inaugurating efforts to endorse breastfeeding as a preventive health measure. This article describes infant feeding practices and resulting public health campaigns in the early 20th and 21st centuries and finds lessons in the original campaigns for the promoters of breastfeeding today.

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