The American Academy Of Pediatrics is reaffirming its recommendation of exclusively breast-feeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, and beyond. They cite a growing list of health benefits as the basis of the recommendation. Coe Bell did not help put the guidelines together but is a lactation consultant at Cleveland Clinic.
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“The AAP is validating the fact that there is a significant difference in health outcomes for infants and mothers who choose to breastfeed,” Bell says.
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months, then a combination of breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, then breastfeeding as long as mutually desired by mother and baby. They base those guidelines on the different health outcomes seen in exclusively breastfed babies and those who never or only partially breastfed.
Health benefits include protection against respiratory illness, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma and eczema. Research also shows the rate of sudden infant death syndrome is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies. There is also a lower obesity rate among breastfed versus non-breastfed babies. Bell says breastfeeding is no longer a lifestyle choice, it’s about the short- and long-term health of the baby.
“Especially for families that have a strong history of allergies and specific disease conditions, obesity also, this is something that can truly make a difference in the life of their child,” she says.
The complete list of guidelines can be found in the journal Pediatrics.