In 2012, the AAP revised its policy statement on “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk”:
The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.
Pediatrician and certified lactation consultant, Joan Younger Meek, M.D., reviewed the literature regarding the “current evidence that continues to show the benefits of breastfeeding” for both the baby AND the mother. The list of advantages from breastfeeding and from breast milk for the baby is substantial and includes reducing the risks in infants and children of:
> Infectious diseases such as acute otitis media (ear infections), acute gastroenteritis, and severe lower respiratory tract infections (pneumonia)
> Atopic dermatitis (eczema) and asthma
> Type 1 and 2 diabetes
> Childhood leukemia
> Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
> Necrotizing enterocolitis (a severe and life-threatening condition of premature newborn infants)
> Overall infant mortality
Dr. Meek also highlights studies suggesting higher IQs in children who were breastfed beyond 6 months of age. Mothers who breastfeed their infants also receive extraordinary health benefits, significantly reducing their own risk of developing:
> Type 2 diabetes
> Postpartum depression
> Ovarian cancer
> Breast cancer
The longer moms breastfeed, Dr. Meek found, the greater protection they receive from ovarian cancer and breast cancer:
Each year of breastfeeding decreased a woman’s chance of developing invasive breast cancer by 6%.
A positive attitude that supports women who breastfeed can save lives, globally and here at home:
The review also showed that women were 2.5 times more likely to breastfeed where it is protected, promoted and supported. The authors estimated that more than 820,000 lives a year could be saved globally by improving breastfeeding practices (i.e., through longer exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding and better support for breastfeeding mothers).
While more than three-quarters of mothers in the United States initially breastfeed their newborn babies (83% in 2015), only about 25% continue past 6 months. Dr. Meek suggests that pediatricians can do more to help improve those numbers:
Up-to-date evidence can help pediatricians educate patients, support mothers and advocate for overcoming barriers that mothers face in meeting their breastfeeding goals. Through the support of informed pediatricians, more mothers and children will achieve the optimal health outcomes from breastfeeding described above.