American Academy of Pediatrics Releases Recommendations on Breast Feeding
The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday released its "strongest set of recommendations ever" advising women to breast feed exclusively for six months and sleep "in proximity" to the babies to make feeding easier, the Contra Costa Times reports. The new recommendations encourage mothers to avoid giving newborns pacifiers during the early weeks after birth, seek to enact legislation to protect breast feeding, push for breast-feeding considerations in custody settlements and advocate for the creation of areas in the workplace where mothers can nurse. AAP recommends that mothers nurse until the child is at least one year old, adding that mothers can continue nursing into the third year or longer.
In addition, the policy recommends that both parents receive breast-feeding education. The new policy states that nursing mothers can consume a "small" alcoholic beverage daily as long as they refrain from nursing for two hours afterward. The policy also states that breast milk is "uniquely superior" to formula, and it "ensures the best possible health as well as the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant." The recommendations also encourage adoptive mothers to induce lactation through hormonal therapy or mechanical stimulation and to use a human milk bank if they are unwilling or unable to nurse.
According to AAP, breast feeding helps protect babies against infectious diseases, such as ear infections, diarrhea, urinary tract problems and asthma. Other research suggests that breast feeding can increase an infant's IQ and aid in the prevention of diabetes, leukemia, obesity and other diseases, while also reducing women's risk for certain types of cancer and bone fractures (Lyons, Contra Costa Times, 2/7).
CDC statistics show breastfeeding rates have increased for 12 years and that about one-third of mothers continue to nurse infants who are six months old. Fewer than 20% of mothers breast feed babies who are one year old, according to CDC (Elias, USA Today, 2/7). Fourteen percent of mothers are exclusively breast feeding at six months.
Laurence Grummer-Strawn, lead author of the recommendations and chief of maternal and child nutrition at CDC, said, "Our typical image of how we feed infants is to stick a bottle in their mouth. We need to make breastfeeding the standard way we think of infants being fed." He added, "We realize not every mother will do it. But it really is beneficial to the baby" (Contra Costa Times, 2/7).
However, family historian Stephanie Coontz criticized the recommendation that couples keep babies near at night, saying, "Half of American women go back to work before their babies are a year old. A woman might need a good night's sleep or to bond with her husband, and that's good for the baby. We have whole generations of well-adjusted, healthy people who didn't sleep near their parents as babies" (USA Today, 2/7). The policy is available online.