The American Academy of Pediatrics has released new recommendations that encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, as well as systematic changes to offer more support for breastfeeding mothers. Finally.

Let's admit it. As most of us natural-minded mothers are pro-breastfeeding, exclusively and long-term, this is a small step in what we wish pediatricians have ALWAYS recommended. Instead of the old, "Put some rice in the bottle at 4 months so he'll sleep better" trick. Groan.

And we recognize that there are mothers who cannot exclusively breastfeed--that's the world in which we live and we honor all moms doing the best they can.

But we're glad the American Academy of Pediatrics finally updated a policy statement and a technical report, and suggested more support for parents who breastfeed until their child is two-years-old (HOORAY) as well as no more encouraging nutritious complementary foods to breast milk before a baby is six-months-old.

Can we say it again? Food before one is just for fun?

Dr. Joan Younger Meek, MS, RD, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC is the lead author of the reports and she says,
"Human milk is all a baby needs for the first six months of life. 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. 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.”
Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of SIDS as well as decreased rates of lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, obesity and ear infections, among a host of other conditions.

The following are the AAP's recommendations:

  • 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 protection 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 protection 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.
Dr. Lawrence Noble, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC is a co-author of the policy statement and technical report and said,
"The AAP views breastfeeding as a public health imperative and also as an equity issue. Pediatricians and other medical professionals can help mothers meet their intended goals for breastfeeding and provide care that is inclusive, equitable, and culturally sensitive.
"

Dr. Meek said, “Breastfeeding can be challenging for new parents, and support from their families, doctors and workplaces is essential, as 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.”

Hear, hear!