Breastfeeding is extremely important for the first six months of an infants life. Breastfeeding provides the baby with important nutrition to support growth and development. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated their breastfeeding guidelines, supporting continued breastfeeding for not only the fist six months of life, but for the first two years.
“Human milk is all a baby needs for the first six months of life,” said Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC, lead author of the reports, written by the AAP Section on Breastfeeding. “Breast milk is unique in its nutrients and protective effects, and really quite remarkable when you look at what it does for a child’s developing immune system.”
However, shedding light on the other side of the coin, Dr. Meek continued, “Not everyone can breastfeed or continue breastfeeding for as long as desired for various reasons, including workplace barriers. Families deserve nonjudgmental support, information and help to guide them in feeding their infant.”
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Breastfeeding is linked to decreased rates of lower respiratory tract infections, severe diarrhea, ear infections and obesity. Breastfeeding is also associated with lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Additionally, it provides other protections for the child.
“The AAP views breastfeeding as a public health imperative and also as an equity issue,” said Lawrence Noble, MD, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC, co-author of the policy statement and technical report, which details the evidence that supports human milk feeding. “Pediatricians and other medical professionals can help mothers meet their intended goals for breastfeeding and provide care that is inclusive, equitable, and culturally sensitive.”
According to the new guidelines report, the following is an inclusive look at all of the recommendations from the AAP regarding breastfeeding.
The AAP recommends:
- Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months. There is no need to introduce infant formula or other sources of nutrition for most infants. Beyond 6 months, breastfeeding should be maintained along with nutritious complementary foods.
- AAP recommends that birth hospitals or centers implement maternity care practices that improve breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity.
- There are continued benefits from breastfeeding beyond 1 year, and up to 2 years especially in the mother. Long-term breastfeeding is associated with protections against diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancers of the breast and ovaries.
- Mothers who choose to breastfeed beyond the first year need support from their medical care providers, as well as protections against workplace barriers.
- Policies that protect breastfeeding, including universal paid maternity leave; the right of a woman to breastfeed in public; insurance coverage for lactation support and breast pumps; on-site child care; universal workplace break time with a clean, private location for expressing milk; the right to feed expressed milk; and the right to breastfeed in child care centers and lactation rooms in schools are all essential to supporting families in sustaining breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding can be challenging for new parents, and support from their families, doctors and work places is essential,” Dr. Meek said. “The health benefits are vast and can be viewed as a long-term investment not only in a child’s development, but to public health as a whole.”
For more information on the AAP’s updated guidelines on breastfeeding, click here. What do you think about the new updates? Sound-off, and comment below. We want to hear from you.