"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life and breastfeeding with complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Breastfeeding is an important public health strategy for improving infant and child morbidity and mortality and improving maternal morbidity and helping to control health care costs."
ADA's issuance of its updated breastfeeding position puts it in good company with other medical organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and others, who state the specific importance of breastfeeding exclusively for six months, and for 12 months with complementary foods.
Given that nutrition is one of the major facets of this issue, it is essential that breastfeeding is recognized and protected as a vital public health issue. Healthcare professionals from several disciplines are instrumental in providing the support and education that breastfeeding mothers need to persevere.
Here are the reasons why the ADA has made the above its official stance. These are taken from the position paper:
Health benefits of breastfeeding for infants include:
- Enhanced immune system
- Reduced risk for nonspecific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections and asthma
- Protection against allergies and intolerances
- Promotion of correct development of jaw and teeth
- Association with higher intelligence quotient and school performance through adolescence
- Reduced risk for chronic disease such as obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and childhood leukemia
- Reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Strong bonding with infant
- Increased calorie expenditure, which may lead to faster return to pre-pregnancy weight
- Faster shrinking of the uterus
- Reduced postpartum bleeding and delays in the menstrual cycle
- Decreased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer
- Improved bone density and decreased risk for hip fracture
- Decreased risk for postpartum depression
- Enhanced self-esteem in the maternal role
- Time saved from preparing and mixing formula
- Money saved from not buying formula and increased medical expenses associated with formula feeding