WHO guidelines for exercising feeding options

In ‘The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding,’ the recommendations for feeding infants and young children are:1

  • Milk from own mother by breastfeeding,
  • Milk from own mother, expressed,
  • Milk from a wet-nurse, or
  • Milk from a milk bank, or
  • Breastmilk substitute fed by cup,

depending on individual circumstances and as discussed with a health care provider. [Ed.]

To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, WHO and UNICEF recommend:

  • Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life;
  • Exclusive breastfeeding –that is, the infant only receives breastmilk (including milk expressed or from a wet nurse) without any additional food or drink or water;
  • Breastfeeding on demand –that is, as often as the child wants, day and night;
  • No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers.

In this document, Eats On Feets uses the WHO definition of exclusive breastfeeding, which includes expressed milk and milk from another mother (i.e. by wet-nursing). In support of exclusive breastfeeding, in circumstances where breastfeeding from a wet-nurse is not feasible, informed milk sharing can be a viable option for families. Milk sharing can be interpreted as an extension of wet-nursing, and as a safe alternative for infant feeding and successful exclusive breastfeeding.


  1. ‘The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding’, bullet 18 states: “The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative –expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat –depends on individual circumstances.” []

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