June 28, 2022 -- The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its breastfeeding guidelines this week.
Parents should continue to breastfeed exclusively in their babies’ first six months before solid foods are introduced, the AAP says.
But it now also supports continued breastfeeding for the first 2 years of life, saying it extends health benefits to infants and mothers alike
The recommendations also call for support of parents who choose to breastfeed to age 2 and beyond.
“Human milk is all a baby needs for the first six months of life,” said Joan Younger Meek, MD, lead author of the reports. “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 linked to decreased rates of lower respiratory tract infections, severe diarrhea, ear infections and obesity, the AAP says. It also is associated with lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome and provides other protections.
“The AAP views breastfeeding as a public health imperative and also as an equity issue,” said Lawrence Noble, MD. “Pediatricians and other medical professionals can help mothers meet their intended goals for breastfeeding and provide care that is inclusive, equitable, and culturally sensitive.”
Mothers need support from medical care providers and employers, the AAP says, including protecting rights to breastfeed in public, insurance coverage, and onsite child care, the organization says.
Some parents don’t want to breastfeed or can’t, the study’s authors said, urging support for the needs of all families.