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Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies: Report

Nursing exclusively for six months, then with foods until at least 12 months is ideal, dietitians say

FRIDAY, Nov. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding offers health benefits for infants and mothers, and should be promoted and encouraged, says an updated position paper released by the American Dietetic Association.

"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that exclusive breast-feeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life, and breast-feeding with complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Breast-feeding 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," the ADA said in a news release.

The authors of the position paper conducted an evidence-based review of breast-feeding's history, practices and health benefits in the United States and other countries. They concluded that breast-milk features optimal nutrient composition for infants and reduces the risk for many acute and chronic conditions. The health benefits of breast-milk for infants include:

  • A stronger immune system
  • Decreased risk of asthma, lower respiratory tract infections and gastroenteritis
  • Improved protection against allergies and intolerances
  • Proper development of jaw and teeth
  • Association with higher IQ and better grades in school
  • Reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome, as well as chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and childhood leukemia.

The benefits of breast-feeding for mothers include:

  • Quality time spent bonding with baby
  • Quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight due to increased calorie expenditure
  • Less postpartum bleeding, faster shrinking of the uterus and return to menstrual cycle
  • Lowered risks for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes
  • Better bone density with less risk of hip fracture
  • Improved self-esteem and less risk of postpartum depression
  • Cost savings from not buying formula.

The paper's authors said dietetic technicians, registered (DTRs) and registered dietitians (RDs) "have an important role in promoting and supporting breast-feeding for its short- and long-term health benefits for both mother and infants. RDs and DTRs also have an important role in conducting empirical research on breast-feeding-related topics. Research is especially needed on the effectiveness of breast-feeding promotion campaigns."

The position paper was published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

More information

The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about breast-feeding.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Dietetic Association, news release, Nov. 2, 2009

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