New breastfeeding guidelines
According to a new policy statement from the American Academy of
Pediatrics (AAP), new mothers should be breastfeeding their babies
for longer periods of time to gain the many health benefits to both
infant and mother. The new policy statement is the first update to
breastfeeding guidelines since 1997.
Around 62% of new mothers report that they breastfeed exclusively --
meaning that breastfeeding is the sole form of nourishment for the infant,
excluding even water -- at seven days after the birth of their baby.
However, this figure drops to just 14% at six months, as many new mothers
supplement breastfeeding with other foods or quit entirely by this point.
The aim of the updated AAP guidelines is to stress the benefit of exclusive
breastfeeding until at least the six-month mark. All health information
related to breastfeeding, including benefits to both mother and child,
has been updated to make a stronger case for this.
For infants, breastfeeding provides health advantages that include
reduced risk of infectious diseases like bacterial meningitis, respiratory
tract infection, and diarrhea. It may also decrease chances of sudden
infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infants under one year old. Older children
and adults who were breastfed as babies have a lower risk of Type 1 and
Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and asthma.
But babies who are breastfed are not the only ones benefitting. Mothers
who breastfeed also profit through faster post-pregnancy weight loss,
lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and possibly a reduced risk
of post-menopausal hip fracture and osteoporosis.
The AAP recommendations acknowledge that there can be roadblocks to
breastfeeding and offer suggestions for getting around them. Mothers
who cannot breastfeed regularly due to a return to work or other time
constraints are encouraged to use a breast pump to provide breastmilk
for the baby in their absence. There is also an increased emphasis on
the education of both parents and the importance of the father's support
in what can, at times, be a difficult process.
New parents are reminded that, in most cases, an infant can thrive
and develop optimally during the first six months of life through exclusive
breastfeeding. A baby being breastfed the appropriate number of times
per day -- 8 to 12 feedings every 24 hours for the first few weeks, 8
feedings per 24-hour period afterward -- does not generally need any
supplemental food or fluids -- even water. Complementary foods, like
those rich in iron, are recommended as a supplement to breastfeeding
only after the six-month mark, in most cases. But the guidelines stress
that breastfeeding should be continued, along with these foods, for at
least the first year of life.
New mothers should check with their doctors to be sure that there is
nothing in their health profiles or those of their babies that could
make exclusive breastfeeding a health problem. Once the doctor gives
a green light for breastfeeding, the updated American Academy of Pediatrics
guidelines remind mothers to keep at it, for their health and that of
March 2005 Update
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