June 21st, 2010
08:59 AM ET

New study supports exclusive breastfeeding for first six months

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Managing Editor

New research provides more evidence that when moms exclusively breastfeed their newborns and infants for the first six months of life, they can signficantly reduce their baby's risk of serious lung and intestinal infections.

Researchers in the Netherlands looked at data from more than 4000 infants. They found that babies who were exclusively breastfed for more than four months had a "significant reduction of respiratory and gastrointestinal diseases in infants."  They also found that being breastfed until six months of age seemed to be even more protective and even appeared to reduce the number of infections for the next six months of the child's life.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months – where a baby is only given breast milk, no formula or solid food or fruit juice or even water – have been known for a while.  In this study, the benefits of breastfeeding come from what's in the breast milk (which can be fed to the baby by nursing or pumping the milk and then bottle-feeding the infant).

Breast milk not only provides all the nutrients a baby needs but moms are also passing along antibodies,which help protect their little ones from infections that cause diarrhea and pneumonia, the two leading causes of child mortality worldwide according to the World Health Organization. More than 1 million child deaths could be avoided each year if more babies were exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life according to the WHO website.

"We've had various evidence for years that infectious diseases are minimized," says the Dr. Ruth Lawrence, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. "But we haven't had as much data in a developed country." Lawrence says this new study confirms what the AAP and WHO already recommend – breastfeed six months exclusively if possible.

In addition to the WHO and AAP, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants until approximately six months of age.

However, according to the CDC's 2009 breastfeeding report card, while nearly three-quarters of babies nationwide start out being breastfed, only one-third of moms were exclusively breastfeeding their babies at three months and only 14 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at six months.

Pediatricians recognize the challenges new moms face. "It really takes a lot of dedication from the mom's standpoint [to breastfeed] day in and day out for six months," says Dr. Frank Esper, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio.  Esper and Lawrence as well as the CDC and WHO agree more needs to be done to help mothers continue to breastfeed in the United States and worldwide.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (363 Responses)
  1. KeithTexas

    America's economy has degenerated to the point that a young man with a blue collar job can not support his family well enough for his wife to stay home and care for the children. It is a national shame that there is no support for women so that they can stay home and breast feed their babies.

    My children are grown and we were fortunate to be able to afford for my wife to stay home with our children, but my Daughter and Daughter in law will not be so fortunate. If we can't live on what we make any more it is time for the government to mandate some support for mothers with babies.

    June 21, 2010 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. mominnc

    I breastfed my baby exclusively for 6 months, including pumping at work for 4 of those months. I then introduced pureed food at 6 1/2 months while still giving breastmilk. My 8-month-old son has been extremely healthy, even while in daycare where many babies and children get sick. I have gotten sick three times since he started daycare, but he has only gotten one very mild case of one of those illnesses, and I believe that is because of the immunity I have passed to him. That being said, it is a lot of effort to pump at work and many moms can't do so. I encourage mom's to breastfeed as long as they can, and contiue to do so even if they supplement with formula. Any amount of breastmilk benefits your baby. Good for you!

    June 21, 2010 at 10:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. James Akre

    Dear Ms Falco,

    Many thanks for highlighting the results of the work of researchers in the Netherlands published this week in the journal Pediatrics. They are consistent with a growing body of evidence that makes clear that feeding human babies human milk should be the norm everywhere and that feeding anything else during the first 6 months of life constitutes a deviation from the norm.

    I also appreciate that you mention the long-time policy positions of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. However, the words "if possible" have no place here, any more than they would in recommendations that "children be transported in approved car seats and adults don't blow tobacco smoke in their faces – if possible". Surely, we need to do everything we can to ensure that mothers and children can breastfeed. But there is no reason to water down this way the public health recommendation that they should.

    James Akre, Geneva, Switzerland

    June 21, 2010 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. livewiremaggoo

    I breastfed both of my children until they were 1 year – and it is surely a huge commitment, but one I am glad I personally was able to make. I work full time too, so it can be done – it is just a bit more tricky! To each his own, I would never push on anyone as there are many factors involved and everyone's lives are different. I am happy that if there are truly benefits to it, my kids received them so I would hope if someone is capable of doing it, they at least try!

    June 21, 2010 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Proud Father & Husband

    If Possible absolutely has a place in the wording here. My wife was unable to produce breastmilk, and is not alone in that issue. She told me years ago that she was tired of the garbage she endured from the "La Leche" league and whatever other judgmental crackpot people are out there. I told her to blow it off, but now I am getting fed up, too. Breast milk is terrific – if possible. Not everyone lactates. My daughter never got an entire meal of breast milk, and is now beginning her third grade year with no history of health problems, and among the highest grades in her class.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • amanda

      im so glad to hear you daughter is healthy and does good in school. Im so sick of people trying to push me into breastfeeding i wanted to pump and give my baby my milk from a bottle but just dont produce enough for her to be happy its like im drying up. im ok with being done she got some and that ok with me. i just feel like the people around me are looking down at me cause i dont want to set an alarm every 2 hours so that i can pump and try to produce more, but i feel if i do that then i will be tired expecially having to get up all those times and when shes ready to eat. i feel that if i do that then i wont be any good to her the next day cause i

      September 7, 2010 at 20:04 | Report abuse |
    • amanda

      will be so tired. it just makes me happy that you put it out there that everything will be ok if i now just give my baby formula. i hope everything keeps going good for you and its so awesome how clearly proud of a father and a loving and caring husband you are. thanx again!

      September 7, 2010 at 20:10 | Report abuse |
  6. Kathy Merritt

    There are many, many more reasons to breastfeed. It's easier, it's cheaper, it's convenient, it's very sweet bonding time for mother and baby. I can't imagine making another choice if there isn't some really important reason (ex., Mom has HIV/AIDS).

    June 21, 2010 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Katie

      Breastfeeding isn't ALWAYS easy. Its been an exhausting battle for my four month old and I. Since the day he was born I have been trying to establish a good nursing relationship with him. Iv'e been to a very expensive lactation consultant FIVE times and still my supply is minimal and my baby screams his head off. I fed him every two and half hours like everyone said and it just makes him more mad. Its not more convenient, now that I'm having to shuffle around a huge pump, bottles, and storage bags everywhere I go. YET, I am still doing everything in my power to give him all of the breastmilk I have and intend to do so until I completely dry up. He hasn't had to have any formula yet, but hes getting hungrier and my body is stuck at making an ounce total an hour.

      December 7, 2010 at 22:14 | Report abuse |
  7. RJ

    Be explicit.
    Is it "breastfeeding" or "breast milk"?
    A baby doesn't have to breastfeed to get breast milk.
    There are benefits to breastfeeding (attachment, familiarity, closeness) that go beyond just getting breast milk.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ann

    This is all well and good, but for those of us who can't breastfeed due to infant allergies, we should not be made to feel as if it is an ONLY option.

    I tried cutting everything that could have possibly had an effect out of my diet until I was eating nothing but Chicken and white rice, and our child still was not gaining weight and their intestines were still irritated.

    Our child is very healthy and does go to daycare, has not been sick once. Although this is a recommendation, it is not physically possible for everyone, even if they had intentions of doing it.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. ShortonTime

    I would have really liked to follow these recommendations, but today's work place policy, and only 12 weeks of job protected (unpaid) leave prevent that. Which means that in reality I was back to work when my children were 8 and 10 weeks old respectively. Pumping at work is not an option, there is no resource or support for that either. We need to look at other nations, ie. UK, where mothers have a full year off to care for newborns. We do not support new mothers or their newborn children sufficiently for new mothers to follow this advice. And it is a shame. We should be able to do better.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Susan

      Agreed. A working mom has to fight her way to provide breast milk for her baby. My workplace (large hospital in metro city) and many others that I've heard of had only 6 weeks paid time off for vaginal delivery, and 8 weeks paid for cesarean section. The other 6, and 4 weeks were unpaid. Then once you got to work you had to find the time in the day to pump which is best to do on a schedule, however work conditions don't necessarily allow for a break to do so. So, that means pumping during a 30 min lunch break, shoving a sandwich down your throat w/ one hand and holding the pumping bottles w/ the other hoping and stressing that you'd extract enough milk to feed the baby sufficiently. And to add to all that, finding a private, relaxing atmosphere to pump isn't the reality. I've had to pump standing in a bathroom before. That's sad America!

      July 29, 2010 at 10:11 | Report abuse |
    • momma2_1

      Agreed- i am currently working full time while my husband keeps our baby. I now see the glory of the 1950's nuclear family with stay at home moms! Breastfeeding is really difficult while working full time. I do it, but it requires 3 or 4 30 min sessions each day (I am lucky enough to have a private office and can pump while working), and even then production drops over the months and it takes extra pumping work in the middle of the night to have an adequate supply for the day.Life would be so much easier if I could be a stay at home mom. I wouldn't have to be working so hard to juggle work and pumping which is a full time job in itself. Americans are so completely uninformed about breastfeeding. It really should be taught in school health classes so that people understand how the system works. I don't see how people without private offices manage to pump! Anyone who does that is truly a superhero. There is new legislation in the new health bill requiring employers to provide an adequate space and time for pumping, but the bill really needs to be more in depth and detailed, and we definitely need more time with babies in this country during the first year- 6 or 8 or even 12 weeks is simply not adequate. Our society is certainly suffering in the long term. It's due time for our country to start telecommuting more and having more respect for new life.

      July 29, 2010 at 11:00 | Report abuse |
  10. Sarah

    In response to Mr. Akre's comment:

    While I have never met a person who was not able to put a child in a car seat or to refrain from blowing tobacco, I do know quite a few mothers (including myself) who are not ABLE to provide milk for their children – for what ever reason. I have 4 children and I know that I do not produce enough milk (in other words children become at risk for failure to thrive). I have met mothers who had similar problems or whose milk did not seem to provide enough nutrients for the children. While we are the minority, including an "if possible" is correct.

    This article was well written. I wish that I were able to properly nurse my kids but am also thankful that I live in a day and age where I have an available alternative.

    Sarah, Montreal

    June 21, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. lm

    In response to James Akre,

    Well, yes, "if possible" does have a place here. For example, in the case of inability to breast feed, due to mother's or child's problems (under-producing or tongue-tied, respectively). Also, in the case of adoption. Or mastectomy due to cancer. Or death of the mother.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. lori

    Breast is best...Yes, but be very careful. Making women feel like they are not doing the best for there child can be hamful. I have a daughter facing this. She needs to have surgery a few weeks after her baby is due. She will not beable to breastfeed and will be seperated from her infant baby for a couple of days and will need someone to care for her and baby when she gets home. Between her, daddy, granparents and aunts and uncles we will do our very best to keep baby healthy and as close to her through out the days of the surgery. Please Don't make mothers feel like they are doing less for there babys because of breast feeding.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. AmyTexas

    I think it is a fantastic idea to breastfeed all infants exclusively for the first six months. However, I do not think we should underestimate the challenges for doing so for working moms. I did not have the option financially for quitting my job to stay home with my baby, and had to go back to work after the 3 months of legally enforced maternity leave. I pumped 3x a day at work, compromising my relationship with my boss due to the fact that between pumping and breastfeeding, I could only work 6-7 hours a day. Even with that, my milk supply from pumping could not fully cover my infants needs by 4 months of age. I continued breastfeeding until 8 months of age as much as I could. I was very conscientious about diet, hydration, feeding my infant on demand overnight, as well as took any supplement or food/drink recommended to increase supply. The problem is, as soon as your baby is sleeping through the night, EVERY working mom I knew had difficulty keeping up there supply. If America really intends to have infants exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life, then maternity leaves need to be longer and paid.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. anon in AZ

    There are so many advantages to exclusive breastfeeding besides the medical ones cited here. When my baby was 8 months old, I had to have a thymectomy and be away from my baby girl for a week. Since I was unable to nurse her (and too far away to pump milk for her even though I was told that my milk would be safe just a few days after surgery when the anesthesia was completely out of my system), my daughter had to be given formula. I was astounded at how much it cost for only one week of use. Fortunately, I was able to to resume nursing once I was home, and I was grateful to be able to do that – not only for the health benefits and the closeness that nursing provides for both mother and baby, but because it is so much more cost-effective than formula. Even when I factor in the cost of my breast pump and supplies, I save hundreds of dollars over her first year of life, not to mention savings in fewer doctor visits and other benefits that I can't put a price on.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. 2James

    2 James Akre- Some women do suffer from an inability to produce sufficient breast milk; I was one. It is insulting for you to compare that with someone blowing cigarette smoke in a child's face. I would have happily breast-fed IF POSSIBLE, and agree with this study and it's findings. My son has been healthy and happy despite having been switched to formula at only 6 weeks. I was more upset to make the switch than he was – he was just happy to finally be eating full meals instead of frustratingly small feedings.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MommyinPA

    The only thing I would add is that Mom's shouldn't feel guilty when it doesn't work. Both of my kids had severe milk allergies that were passed down via my breast milk. Modifying my diet did little to help so we had to supplement with formula.

    I also agree with the comments about being able to stay home and breast feed. Most women aren't able to do this now days. I know a lot of women who are back at work 6 weeks later. Maternity leaves are often unpaid. And yeah, you can pump at work, but that cannot be easy to do. Nor does the infant contine the closeness of being breastfed by the mother.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. natalie

    my daughter was exclusively breastfed for the first year of her life and I worked full-time outside of the home. It was not a chore to feed her day in and day out. Indeed, it provided valuable bonding time for us when I returned home each evening, was exponentially cheaper than formula, and easier than making sure I had formula, water, and clean bottles with me at all times. If she was hungry and I was with her she could easily eat as much as she liked.

    Indeed, it was in no way a chore or hard.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Aaron

    My wife still breastfeeds our 10 month old. We started introducign cereal and baby food around 6 months and water around 9 months. We just stated introducing baby snacks couple weeks ago. But majority of his nutrition is breastmilk. Me and my 2 sisters were breastfed for a year and so was my 2 year old niece. I literally get sick once every 5 years at most. I can not remember last time my sisters were sick. My niece got a stomach virus once, this past Christmas, and my son has never been sick. My wife works full time and pumps while there. It actually gets easier as he gts older because during the day he eats more cereal and less milk and then exclusive to milk once she gest home. First 3 months the hardest. But at the 6 month mark it gets much easier. I highly recommend those who can to do it. The first month is a struggle but better for your baby and your wallet. Formula is expensive.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. waitingforsebastian

    I am currently pregnant with my first child, and am due in October. I would very much love to be able to breastfeed my son, but due to a medical condition, I am not physically able to. I completely understand all of the literature and information out there that encourage new moms to breastfeed; however, when people like Mr. Akre liken my not breastfeeding to transporting my child without a car seat or blowing tobacco smoke in his face, I find it extremely offensive. I feel guilty enough already without being made to feel as if I am volitionally harming my child. I love my child SO much and would do anything in the world for him. I just wish people would be a little bit more sensitive to those of us who, for reasons that we cannot control, are not able to breastfeed.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. amber N

    I was 23 years old when my son was born and employed as a house cleaner. That did not stop me from exclusively breastfeeding for his first 6 months of life, and continuing through 9 months with the addition of first foods. He is a beautiful and healthy little boy now and though it was taxing on me, I would do it all over again.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Ana

    For 6 months in USA?! Almost impossible! In Europe it is normal because maternity leave there is much longer than here!!!! Very simple. Here, in country of "freedoms" moms DO NOT have much freedom of choice. You HAVE TO quit your job (in bad economy) if you want your child to be healthy. Very impressive for " the greatest nation in the world"!!!

    June 21, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Rachael Nead

    I agree that breastfeeding is the best option, but there are mothers who can not for medical reasons, and due to less than ideal work conditions. This number will not change in the United States unless we have a more breastfeeding friendly culture. I suffered from severe depression after the birth of my son and was not told about the medications that I could take to allow me to continue to breastfeed. I know of women who have had to pump in coat closets and janitors closets ( a teacher) and people who have not been given time in their workday to pump. Add to this exhaustion from working and not sleeping at night from having to breastfeed a baby every two- three hours, it's no wonder the numbers are so low. Once again this article points the blame at women. Many of us work 40 hours a week, and then have to come home and work another full-time job in addition to breastfeeding a baby. Perhaps we need to start questioning why women feel they are unable to breastfeed, instead of blaming women for not breastfeeding.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Susan Beals

    "However, the words "if possible" have no place here, any more than they would in recommendations that "children be transported in approved car seats and adults don't blow tobacco smoke in their faces – if possible". Surely, we need to do everything we can to ensure that mothers and children can breastfeed. But there is no reason to water down this way the public health recommendation that they should.."

    I breastfed my son exclusively for the first 6 months and continued until he was just over one. I am a strong advocate of breastfeeding. However, not every woman is in position to breastfeed continuously for 6 plus months. I would be horrified if we suddenly made breastfeeding somehow mandatory, with tickets and fines should one not comply. Would you have women be forced to stay home for the first 5 years also?

    June 21, 2010 at 11:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • momma2_1

      1st five years!? OMG CAN WE????!!!!!!!!! That would be AWESOME! Plz Plz Plz

      July 29, 2010 at 11:05 | Report abuse |
  24. MEL

    There is a big grey area of reason that women may fall into the area of "if possible".

    I would hope you would take into consideration that not all people are able to breast feed. I would of loved to have breast fed my child but do to health problems I was not able to. So, I fell into the group of "not possible". There are also many factors not all women produce enough milk to breast feed children. Then there is people like me whom can not due to health issues after the birth of a child.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Dana

    I breastfed my son exclusively until he was 6 months and continued feeding him breast milk after he started solids until he was almost 12 months, that was when I couldn't produce enought milk for him. It was not easy, but it's do-able. I work full time but thanks to my flexible work schedule (as a federal employee), I was able to pump 3 times/day.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. JCnOwasso

    KeithTexas- I will have to disagree with you (not completely, but partially. I cannot broad brush every situation). While the economy might not be in the best shape, it is the choices of Parents that determine whether or not they can live on one income. With the addition of many different things to burn income (Cable tv, internet, cell phone bills), it is up to the people to decide what they need to live and what they can live without.

    While I am probably not the best example, I do not make alot, but i make more than many. I make the average income for the area in which I live. My wife and I both worked up until 9 months ago when my daughter was born. We made the decision that, even though my wife made more than I did, it was more worthwhile for her to stay home with our daughter. We decided what we could live with and without and have made the appropriate changes (getting rid of a vehicle for one with a payment of 200 less a month, and now looking to get rid of the other car payment all together). Taking into consideration that childcare would run approx 500 a month and also having to buy formula, and everything else that goes along with it, the additional amount of income she would bring to the equation did not match up with having someone else raise our child.

    Determination will get you where you want to be. I remember my mother working 3 jobs while I was in school to make sure we didn't have any financial problems.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sam

    Since the US is the only first world country that doesn't provide paid maternity leave these types of recommendations are silly. Women should breastfeed for 6 mos., but maternity leave, if provided, is only for 3 months and many Moms must go back to work b/c maternity leave is not paid. Women who work are not given breaks or space to pump, etc.

    The "if possible" language should remain in that not all Moms can breastfeed due to production issues, health or medications (i.e. on a medication that precludes breastfeeding, etc.).

    June 21, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tg

      You may not realise, but Australia also does not have guaranteed paid maternity leave. There are some people in government jobs, or a few companies who may get 12 or 14 weeks of paid maternity leave in recent years, but for the rest of Australian women, no. Next year, finally, there will be a basic level of paid maternity leave for around 12 weeks commencing.

      July 7, 2010 at 04:43 | Report abuse |
  28. Krista

    Finally! What great supportive comments so far! My first son was nursed until he was 15 months old. That was including a year of pumping at work. It is a lot of work to pump but a mother should want to make that sacrifice for her child. My youngest son is 3 months old and is nursing and we plan on going just as long with him, pumping and all. It would be really nice if our government would take a look and really see what is important and make some policy changes to help support women. It is the greatest bonding experience and makes healthy, happy babies!

    June 21, 2010 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Debbie Illinois

    My children are now in their early 20's and middle to late teens, they were all bottle fed. I went back to work when they were 7 weeks old (not by choice) and they are all healthy. I get very upset when hospitals make a new mother feel inadequate because she chooses not to breast feed. To force a women to breast feed her newborn is wrong, it should be her choice and not someone elses.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nicole

      Hey. Guess what? If you don't breastfeed your kids will be fine.
      It is a personal choice. There is nothing wrong with a mother'
      just not wanting to.

      August 3, 2010 at 21:29 | Report abuse |
  30. Dan39

    Keith from Texas,
    Why do you think that the government is responsible for taking care of your children? Getting pregnant is a choice! If you can't afford to raise your children in a healthy environment and take the steps that are required to care for your children, DON'T GET PREGNANT! Stop looking to the government to solve you problems and for handouts. Every handout you take from them gives them more control over your life. Be a responsible adult and take care of your self and your family.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Mei

    How convenient, study comes out of a country where women are given 1 year of paid paternity leave to nurse babies. There's nothing new in this report in terms of the science. We already know breast milk is good for newborns and that the antibodies in breast milk will be effective up to 6 months once ingested by the baby. These studies only look at statistical numbers, what I don't see is the control for other factors such as the environments these babies are living in. If a mother cannot breastfeed for 6 months, is she home taking care of the baby, or is her baby exposed to various pathogens at a daycare somewhere? If finance is not the reason, mothers who cannot produce enough milk may have health issues themselves that they pass on to their babies. Furthermore, If I kept my kid in a bubble for the first year of his life, I guarantee he'll be the healthiest kid on the block, but what does that really say about long term health?! This breastfeeding thing has turned into PC nonsense. CNN, offer some alternative views or at least acknowledge that in America, women are not given the proper support to care for newborns. I'm an expectant mom, and I will have to go back to work within 4 months of birth because I am the bread winner in the family. Articles like this gives me no additional information and only adds to the guilt I will feel if I cannot breastfeed for 6 months. In addition, there's no mention of women who simply do not produce enough milk to feed their baby exclusive on it. I only breastfed for only a month, and I was an extremely healthy child, living in a developing country no less. My husband grew up on formula and he is the human equivalent of a planeria worm when it comes to recuperating from illnesses. Give me a break CNN, tell us educated people something we didn't already know!

    June 21, 2010 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. KD

    @KeithTexas: I do not think a woman needs to stay home in order to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. I have 2 children, both exclusively breastfed for at least 6 months, and they were both in all day childcare from 6 weeks on. It took an unwaivering dedication to nursing from me and a very supportive husband, but I believe that it is worth it if baby can benefit from all that work.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Tom

    Blindingly obvious. As a species we evolved (along with other mammals) over the course of millions of years doing just fine on breast mik. Was a study needed? What we need is a study of the abject fear that some have of glimpsing a mother trying to feed an infant in public. In Europe, mothers discreetly feed their babies in public without the fuss and awkwardness we seem to inflict on women.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Santanu Lahiri

    Unfortunately, some babies do not seem to like the idea. I can attest from two personal experiences. For whatever reason, we could not get our babies to latch on. Docs, nurses, lactation experts all tried and failed. Pumping was the only option. Again, we were lucky that my wife's company had a sympathetic bent and had provided a dedicated room for nursing mothers for pumping. How many new mothers have that option?

    June 21, 2010 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Rebecca

    I am very glad to hear ongoing scientific research shows again and again the breast is best. I have a 13 month old son and am still breastfeeding. I exclusively breastfed for 6 1/2 months before intorducing anything (including cereal) to him. While he has had a lot of colds from being at daycare, he has not been majorly sick (like pneumonia, intestinal bugs, etc.).

    I think that in the US there needs to be more focus and support by everyone to encourage breastfeeding. This includes employers by providing time and space for pumping on return to work; hospitals by not allowing formula companies to stock the post-partum rooms with marketing tools and formula samples; and family members by encouraging moms to stick with it and not suggesting that giving a bottle or cereal will make a baby sleep more.

    I have been fortunate to work for a company that allows me to pump without having to make up the time and also provides me and other mothers with a very comfortable space to pump. I had ready access to a lactation consultant both during my hospital stay and post-partum and when I ran into problems I was able to call for free telephone support. I have a husband who insisted that I at least try to breastfeed because of the health benefits and I have a mother who breastfed three children and who supported my decision to do so.

    I also think that a more supportive maternity leave policy would encourage breastfeeding. Our maternity benefits or paretal benefits are among the worst in the world, I think 3rd from the worst right around the same as Lybia. I think that for a developed nation this is very sad. Most maternity leave is not paid, (paternity leave is definitely not paid), and when maternity leave is paid it is only very short term and the rest of the time is unpaid. There is no way I would have been able to continue to breastfeed if I had to return to work at 6 weeks post-partum. I am very greatful that I was able to afford 6 weeks of unpaid work so that I could give my baby what I believe is the absolute best for him and not something that I think should be an "option" for people who do not have a medical reason that requires them to not breastfeed.

    I think maternity benefits, paternity benefits, and breastfeeding all need more attention at a federal level so that this benefit is encouraged across our nation.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. A. Goodwin

    I agree with KeithTexas! If we really want to see the numbers rise for breastfed children, we as a society need to help new moms succeed. This means places at work where mom's can pump, programs that work like FMLA for company's who do not fit the FMLA rules, extended time off, etc.

    I nursed two children and worked full-time, and it was extremely difficult to manage. I can see why so many women give up because the challenges to breastfeeding go far beyond the physical part – there are still so many social barriers we need to cross.

    I am lucky to work for a company that supports new mom's (we have a privacy room set up for the new mom's to pump), and that is rare. And the whole reason why we have this room is becuase I was sick of sitting in a dirty bathroom to pump. Once I finally got the gumption to bring this to the attention of the President of my company...he didn't even want to have a conversation he was so embarassed – but, he signed off and now we've had 5 moms in the past 2 years faithfully use this room.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. John

    Another study proved that if adult men are breast fed, it increases their chances of caring for the subject who breastfed them.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Liz

    I had a very difficult time nursing my son.....however, I dedicated to pumping and feeding him from a bottle – what a total pain in was but so totally worth it in the long run. My son's only ailment while an infant was diaper rash...no ear infections, no serious illnesses.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. floridadad

    Moms can still stay home in America if they want. It is a choice we make. Do you want 2 really nice cars or a really big house or do want a good car and a nice house? Breast feeding is nice if the mom again chooses to do this. My three kids were not breast feed by a stay at home mom and all three are VERY healthy.

    Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    June 21, 2010 at 11:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. MD

    for many of my female friends, the stress of breast feeding has been the biggest contributor to their post partum depression. No doubt that breast milk is the nature's perfect baby food, but at the same time, it is not the be all and end all of proper childcare. I've seen many sickly babies on breast milk and many robust ones exclusively on formula. New moms should relax, do the best that they, spend less time obsessing and more time enjoying their new baby.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Busymom

    I am a mother of 4 children. My oldest is 14 and the youngest will be 1 yr. I have breastfed all my children. When my 3rd child was 4 wks old, I had to go back to work. I pumped 2/day at work and rushed home to give him his dinner feeding. I breastfed my older 2 children for about 2 mos, the 3rd for 1 yr and the 4th for about 8mos. The younger 2 only got straight breast milk for the 1st 6 mos. I do agree with the studies, however, my children still have asthma, pneumonia, severe allergies, eczema, and colds. It's really funny the one that got breastfed the most, is the one with the most ailments. FYI, I was not a smoker ever in my life either for those of you who are thinking that smoking is the cause of asthma. If a mother really wants her child to benefit, she will find a way to give her baby the best and that is breastmilk.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. ML

    Duh.... Researchers are just now discovering feeding your baby breast milk and not artificial baby food is good for them? How did humanity survive before "formula"? As for not being able to breast feed your child is just a poor excuse for being either lazy or it not being convienient to your lifestyle. Children require sacrifice. Parents should alter their lifestyle to best support their child. The unfortunate thing about American society is Formula companies pay a lot of money to advertise their product and push it onto new mothers. They always state Formula is "almost" as good as breastmilk. It disgusts me. I have three children and have done everything possible to allow my wife the opportunity to only do whats best for our children. It is tough being a single provider but it is worth it. Good luck to all you mothers out there willing to only give your child the best.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Mother of infant

    While I respect the studies findings, I do not agree that an infant MUST be exclusively breastfed. My mother had seven children and exclusively bottlefed us. I have a 4 month old son and my doctors tried to "intimidate" me into breastfeeding. In reference to the statement "we need to do everything we can to ensure that mothers and children can breastfeed" .... it is my choice to breastfeed or not and I don't want the anyone mandating this choice for me.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Andrea Crofton

    This just goes to show how important many of us already knew breastfeeding is. I have a 3 1/2 year old, a 21 month old and a 10 week old. My older children were all breast-feed for 12 months (with only introducing baby food at 6 months), and I'm breastfeeding my infant now. I also work full time! To add to the difficulty, my youngest was diagnosed with an allergy to cow's milk-protiens, so I had to remove all cos-milk products from my diet. Is it difficult, yes. Is it worth it? YES!!!!

    I hope more Mom's don't give up the breastfeeding just because it can be difficult... keep the faith and keep going!!!

    June 21, 2010 at 11:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Katie

    Nice article overall, although it implies that there is an upper limit to breastfeeding in stating, "In addition to the WHO and AAP, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants until approximately six months of age." Health benefits actually continue beyond 6 months.

    As a working mother, I always pumped milk during the day for at least a year. I wish other employers would do more to ensure that mothers have the time and space to do that.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Jamie, Orlando Florida

    I am extended breastfeeding my daughter. She has never had an ear infection, nor any other serious upper respiratory infections. Breastfeeding is best for your child, so I commend motthers that pump and go back to work. I stay home with my daughter but that has taken some sacrifices for us. A lot of families rather have two huge car payments and designer purses then to stay home. In addtion, I truly believe 4 weeks maternity leave is ridiculous. Mothers need time to bond with their child and that is something this country seriously needs to reconsider. For hundreds of years mothers have been with their newborns breastfeeding and taking care of them, I can only imagine the social ramifications that a baby taken care of by rotating strangers and a bottle propped up by blankets is going to result in.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Lisa

    Mr. Akre,

    The words "if possible" do belong in the breastfeeding world. Not all women are capable of lactating, despite their desire to provide the best possible nutrition for their children. I do everything in my power to provide the best possible nutrition to my child, but producing breastmilk is not within my power so I must use an alternative. Fortunately we are aware that he should not be consuming solids or juice until at least 6 months of age.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Nell

    Mothers do not have to be stay-at-home Moms in order to continue breastfeeding. It is federal law, per the Family Medical Act, that women must be provided a time and place during their work day in order to pump so going back to work is no excuse for women to stop breastfeeding. I went back to work after 4 months and continued breastfeeding my son through 13 months, though did start introducing foods at 4 months per prediatricion recomendation. I always appreciate any time the media reiterates breastfeeding as I'm always shocked by some Moms who stop quickly or, worse, never even start. Why deny your child what is best for them?????

    June 21, 2010 at 11:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Jena

    I am the mother of a one year old son (he turned one on June 3rd) and I exclusively nursed him for the first 7 or so months (under doctors advice). After that, I continued to nurse him as well as introduced cereals and other mashed foods. I am now in the difficult process of weaning him and am very proud that I made it this long nursing him. I've always been open with nursing him and when people ask, I have no problem talking to them about it. My only problem has been finding somewhere to nurse him while out in public. I have family members that are strong advocates of the freedom to nurse wherever/whenever your baby needs it, but I'm afraid to offend people, which I know that I shouldn't be. For the sake of their health and ease of nursing wherever, I do wish that nursing was a more common practice with all mothers and that it didn't seem an almost taboo subject.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tg

      Just so you and everyone else out there knows, exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for at least six months, as you have done.

      After that, the WHO recommends breastfeeding for two years, and beyond if mutually desired. Too often, people think weaning from the breast must happen by the age of one year old, because it is known that the use of a bottle or pacifiers beyond that age can cause problems with jaw development and teeth placement. This is not true for breastfeeing however. Vital immunities continue to be passed along, as the immune system is not fully developed even at the age of one.

      July 7, 2010 at 04:56 | Report abuse |
  50. Crystal

    I am so sick of hearing about these studies. I am also sick of hearing from righteous people on the subject, especially from those who can't breastfeed (because they are male) and from those who only want to discuss science and statistics that don't divulge all aspects of the study.

    Babies – my baby – isn't a statistic. Every baby/mother is different. SO WHAT if your baby has only had a small cold because you breastfeed him/her. My baby hasn't had a cold and she was only breastfed for five weeks (she is six months now) and is in daycare four days a week. EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT.

    I am so tired of people reading one line from a study and they think they are experts. This article doesn't discuss any other elements to this study and/or babies lives. It doesn't talk about where the babies went, what they were exposed to, how clean or dirty their parents or siblings are, what germs they are exposed to etc....

    Yes it is normal and natural – babies drink human milk, calves drink cow's milk etc.... Get over yourself if it makes you feel better that you are doing the "right" thing. I am sick of you.

    What America needs to do is educate mothers on how/what to feed their baby and how to care for them. Not criticize and make them feel guilty for not breastfeeding for six months.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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