Perinatal period

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Overview

Perinatal defines the period occurring around the time of birth (5 months before and 1 month after). The perinatal period commences at 22 completed weeks (154 days) of gestation (the time when birth weight is normally 500 g), and ends seven completed days after birth. (WHO - World Health Organization).

In relation to perinatal period breastfeeding is one of the most important thing to remember. Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with milk from a woman's breasts. Babies have a sucking reflex that enables them to suck and swallow milk. Experimental evidence suggests that, with few exceptions, human breast milk is the best source of nourishment for human infants. Experts still disagree about how long breastfeeding should continue to gain the most benefit, and how much extra risk is involved in using breast milk substitutes.

An infant may be breastfed by its own mother or by another lactating female, a wet nurse. Breast milk may be expressed and fed to a baby through a bottle, and pasteurized donor human milk may also be used. Breast milk substitutes are available for mothers or families who cannot or prefer not to breastfeed their children. While there are conflicting studies about the relative value of breast milk substitutes, the use of commercial infant formulas is acknowledged to be inferior to breastfeeding for both full term and premature infants. In many countries, artificial feeding is associated with a greater mortality from diarrhoea in infants but where there is clean water, many consider artificial feeding to be acceptable.

Governmental strategies and international initiatives promote breastfeeding as the best method of feeding infants in their first year and beyond. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also promote breastfeeding.

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