Breast milk helps babies' health
More mothers in Scotland are breastfeeding their babies for longer, according to figures.
The statistics, published by NHS Scotland, have been welcomed by health officials.
Chief nursing officer Anne Jarvie said they showed that "steady progress" was being made but stressed that the medical profession must not become complacent.
The study covers 10 health board areas and has been released ahead of National Breastfeeding Awareness week.
It shows that in 2002, 37% of women were still breastfeeding six to eight weeks after birth - an increase of 2.6% from 1998.
Breast milk helps to stimulate the immune system and protects babies from a range of infections
Ms Jarvie said: "We know that breast milk is the world's best baby food, providing mother and baby with many advantages over formula feeding.
"Breast milk helps to stimulate the immune system and protects babies from a range of infections, including lung and ear infections.
"We are making steady progress in promoting breastfeeding and it is encouraging that more mothers are breastfeeding and for longer.
"But we cannot stop here. We must build on our progress and ensure that by 2005 at least 50% of all mums in Scotland are breastfeeding their babies at six weeks."
Breastfeeding is also known to be beneficial to mothers and NHS Scotland said it could reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
National Breastfeeding Awareness Week runs from 11 to 17 May 2003.