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The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement earlier this week strongly reasserting its recommendation that babies should be exclusively breastfed until they are 6 months old. This is not new—the AAP has longed championed this cause.
However, there was a twist inserted into the very beginning of the statement: "Infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice."
In a Time magazine article, a writer notes: "The recognition on behalf of the group's 60,000 pediatricians that breast is best for mom, baby and the nation's well-being is creating buzz in the breastfeeding community."
According to the AAP release, the group issued this updated statement "given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding."
The Time article quoted Best for Babes co-founder Danielle Rigg as saying that she praises the AAP for linking breastfeeding with public health. "In framing it that way, it becomes all of our responsibilty—not just moms—to provide both the infrastructure and the social support to see to it that many moms and babies as possible can do it," says Rigg, as quoted in the article.
The benefits of breastfeeding are astounding. According to studies, breastfed babies have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), obesity and cardiovascular disease later in life, plus fewer ear infections and hospitalizations for pneumonia. And it's not just little ones who benefit—breastfeeding helps moms, too! Research shows that women who nurse have a lower risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers.
No matter the data, breastfeeding and various aspects of the practice continue to be hot-button issues in the U.S. The disparate views expressed in the Time article's comment section is one example. Most of them were in favor of the AAP's policy. But several commenters expressed concern about women being forced into something that they might not be able to do. Whether it's because of a low milk supply, other health problems or personal choice, we should all be respectful of each other's personal decisions about our own bodies.
If you're encountering a rough patch in breastfeeding, check out our Milk Duds page for simple ways to overcome sore nipples, low milk supply and other common problems. And the no. 1 tip: Get a good support team behind you, including your spouse.
—Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor