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Exclusive Breast-Feeding Not the Norm in U.S.
Date:11/12/2011

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- When something's been scientifically proven as good for the body -- nourishing, boosting disease-fighting ability and more -- you might think Americans would clamor to adopt it, especially when the bodies it helps are babies'.

But you'd be wrong, health experts bemoan -- at least when it comes to breast-feeding.

A large number of mothers in the United States, they say, do not breast-feed their babies.

Nearly three out of four mothers start breast-feeding while still in the hospital, but by the time their baby is 6 months old, just 43 percent are still breast-feeding, said Dr. Richard Schanler, a neonatologist and pediatrician in Manhasset, N.Y., and chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section. Fewer than one of four mothers in the United States breast-feeds till their child's first birthday.

And those numbers represent only women who do any breast-feeding, said Schanler and Dr. Laura Viehmann, a pediatrician in Pawtucket, R.I. Just 33 percent of mothers exclusively breast-feed to 3 months of age, Schanler said, and only 14 percent to 6 months.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding for a year, and as long as baby and mother desire after that, Schanler said. Once a baby reaches 6 months old, the mother can start adding in complimentary foods.

But until then, exclusive breast-feeding has the backing of medical research. "The physical benefits of breast-feeding are improved with exclusive breast-feeding for six months," Viehmann said.

So why don't more mothers breast-feed? Breast-feeding can be difficult to learn, for both mother and child. And American society, according to Schanler and Viehmann, doesn't provide the sort of support needed to promote the practice.

Breast milk contains a rich amount of nutrients, hormones and antibodies, a wondrous combination that
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