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. Debra McHugh

    Breastmilk does not contain everything a baby needs. There is no vitamin D in breastmilk. When my doctor found out that I was breastfeeding he recommended a supplement for the baby because breast milk is incomplete. The antibodies are for only so long and for only certain illnesses-they will not prevent your child from getting sick! My children were breastfed for a little and then on to formula. They are healthy. No need to make new mothers fearful or feel guilty. A girlfriend breastfed her baby for 6 months and the child was in and out of the hospital. Another girlfriend has 2 beautiful girls, never breastfed and they are healthy and thriving. Don't get me wrong, I think breastfeeding is good but saying breastmilk is the best way is not entirely accurate or fair for mothers who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. I know it's not fair because I was given the "Oh , you're not breastfeeding? And why not? You know it's the best for your baby right?? from many a physician.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Rachael M

    Even if I could afford to stay home full-time, I would choose to work. I love my career AND my children. Simply going back to the 1950's-style home is not the answer because many of us working moms would choose to continue.
    The government needs to require adequate (not just "reasonable") accomodations and TIME for breastfeeding mothers so they can pump.
    There needs to be more information and support for women who are pumping (I am bottle feeding but it's 100% expressed/pumped breastmilk). Most information is for either exclusively breastfeeding or formula-feeding women.
    In that event, I think more women would choose and be able to use breastmilk (no matter how obtained) through six months.

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

    i did not breastfeed my two sons, now 19 and 21, and they did not suffer from any respiratory or gastrointestinal diseases as infants. they also didnt have any infections of any kind. i couldnt have asked for more healthy babies, children. breastfeeding is old school and people need to acknowledge that formula is just as good and more convenient. and dont even tell me about bonding better. do people really think we didnt hold our babies close to our bodies while feeding them? baby doesnt know the difference at that age between a nipple on a breast or a nipple on the bottle. as long as theyre being fed, thats what makes them happy at that moment.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Nicola

    I could not breastfeed my son even though I had planned to do so. I simply couldn't output enough. However, even though he was fed formula, he has been in perfect health. I understand the benefits of breast milk rather than formula, but for those of us who were unable to breastfeed for whatever reason, it's an alternative which is necessary. I think hospitals need to realize this also and stop alienating women who are unable to do the 'natural' thing or at least provide more help and assistance without charging an additional arm and a leg to do so.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Deborah

    Unfortunately, mothers are often discouraged or dissuaded from breastfeeding in the hospital. Nurses often don't have the time or motivation to assist a new breastfeeding mom. Younger mom are intimadated by the process and give up easily without that motivation to stick with it. More education and resources are needed.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Rae

    Umm this one is for Keith...I was a single mom at age 29 and worked full time and went to school full time ever since the birth of my daughter. And guess what? I breast fed her until she was over a year old. I pumped as often as I could and stored my breast milk for her while she was at daycare. It was a lot of work but it didn't require me to be a stay at home mom to do it-it just required dedication, discipline and effort. It's called being selfless in my opinion. If a mom wants to do it bad enough, she will with or without others help.

    June 21, 2010 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Anna

    Although most women know the benefits that are associated with breastfeeding their babies, this does not mean that it is possible for every mother to breastfeed her infant. My sister is a prime example of someone who tried, day in and day out to breastfeed her first child. The baby would not latch on regardless of aid from lactation specialists, and regardless of the dedication on my sister's part. It is unfortunate that breastfeeding seems to be so natural for mothers and babies but it is in fact, very difficult for a significant amount of new mothers.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rob

    What a shocker! The big question is, when the hell are we going to decide that our childs health is more impartant than that big flat screen TV, $6,000 dress or Chevy Camaro? Oh, I know when we pull our heads out of our ass! Europe is centuries ahead of us from every perspective! They learn, we get dumber.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jessica K

    I am an advocate of breastfeeding and am glad to hear this news, even though I struggled to give breast milk with my first son and pumed for six months and supplement. With my daughter, I was on medication for PPD and chose not to have her exposed to those drugs due to lack of evidence on how they impact children long-term. My pediatrition agreed with me. I struggle when I hear men in particular be so adamant about breastfeeding. Until you are in a position of having to do it – and often make tough choices that you carry in your heart for some time – you should hold your over generalized opinions to yourself (comparing tobacco smoke in a child's face to not breastfeeding? unfair).

    I agree we need to make this country supportive of BFing in every way – at work, in public, etc. At the same time, we need to respect individual choice and not judge when each family must make tough decisions about feeding their child. Please hold your judgment for yourself and how you live your life vs. judging others like mothers of newborns during their most vulnerable states. Best of luck to all of the moms out there making tough choices every day.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Joe average

    My wife breast fed my youngest for almost 3 years. He is as healthy as a horse. Much missed opportunity by new moms because they are unwilling to sacrifice and/or stay at home.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ann

    Unfortunately I was not able to breast feed at all due to a medical condition that made it impossible for me to produce milk. I tried but couldn't. It is best to breast feed however it is not the end all be all. My child is a year old and has still not gotten sick. He is extremely healthy and smart. My niece however 150% breastfed has had extreme allergies and had to have an ear operation from all the earaches. I feel some things are genetic not just about breastfeeding. Also with the ultra sanitary antibacterial movement kids aren't getting enough germs and becoming super allergic.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Randa Bates

    Many other developed countries have a much higher rate of exclusive breast-feeding, but these countries also allow much longer maternity leaves of 6 months up to a year. If the goal of this government is to encourage exclusive breast-feeding, steps will need to be taken to ensure mothers are given the time with their babies.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Homeschool Mom

    I exclusively breastfed mine for the first year. I also relacted for my adopted child 7 years after I weaned my last biological child. Stay away from doctors, nurses, and uncertified "lactation consultants" when it comes to breastfeeding advice.

    For science based advice contact an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC.) The cost of a consult is equal to about 3 cans of formula-a great deal. The medical profession (including pediatricians, OBs, nurses) and society are usually a nuisance to breastfeeding mothers because most medical staff and the general public have no training in breastfeeding. For social support and basic solid advice contact La Leche League International.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Melissa Seitzinger

    i also breastfeed my daughter exclusively for the first 8 months, 5 of which i pumped from work and brought frozen to her daycare provider. it was inconveniant but completely worth it. hard economic times call for people to work harder to get the things that are important accomplished and not continue to be dependent on the government to help. great article.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Libby

    Perhaps the "if possible" actually means "if possible." I have a 1-year-old, and I had to start supplementing breast milk with formula early on. I simply was not producing enough milk. It was NOT possible. Certainly it is misguided to equate use of formula with a lack of child safety. We can't all live in that ideal world. Many mothers who use formula are, despite the benefits of breast milk, still making the best decision for their children in their specific circumstances.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jessica

    I am a mother of 3 and have breastfed all three of my kids through their first year. Women make all sorts of excuses as to why they "can't" breastfeed. The truth is they do not want to. It takes some time and dedication. It is what is best for our babies, why don't women realize this? I used to be a flight attendant with my first baby and still breastfed him his entire first year. I pumped all over the world and carried a cooler back and forth with my milk. Now, if I can do that then why can't a woman who works in an office who has a fridge pump during the day? The answer is they do not want to. I wish women would wake-up and put their children's best interest first not theirs. There are no excuses as to why you can't breastfeed!!!! Another wonderful study to show how great breastmilk is!

    June 21, 2010 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sara

    My first child is currently 5 and half months old. We started her on cereal after her 4 month appointment with the recomendation of her pediatrician who said it wasn't mandatory however my milk supply was getting low and if not for cereal i would have had to start supplementing with formula.

    I believe if i had been able to take more than 6 weeks off work i would have been able to produce enough to soley breast feed for the first six months...as it stands now even pumping 5 times a day i am going to be lucky to make it past six months supplementing with cereal and will probably have to start supplementing with formula. I really wanted to make it one year breastfeeding.

    All of the research in the world to promote breast feeding is great, but without action to help mothers do it, it is meaningless. However every baby is different and some require more food than others. I'm trying to do the best i can for my baby, but i would appriciate help from the government to allow me to stay at home and take care of my baby for at least the first 12 weeks, no matter how long i have had my job.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Meowtain Lion

    i had to stop breast feeding when my FMLA ran out. even though I work for the state, I could only pump in the bathroom, and it smelled horrible. It also felt so gross to pump in there. They would only give me 15 minutes to pump, and that was hardly enough time.

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

    I exclusively breastfed all three of my kids for 6 months–but I am the exception among my friends. The US is not a mother-friendly or child-friendly environment. We have no guaranteed parental leave–either paid or unpaid. FMLA does not apply to all workplaces. We have no Universal health care coverage for pregnant women or childen–which harms us. Heck, a majority of Americans see nothing wrong with putting away a 12 year old child for life for a crime–even though we're the only nation to do this along with Iran. Even in so-called repressed Muslim countries (other than Iran), that isn't done. Perhaps if we truly accepted that we don't value children and parents here, we would do something to change it.

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

    Thank you for this article. Maybe more doctors will get on board and stop telling moms to start solids at 4 months. My son's pediatrician (who was supposedly very supportive of breastfeeding) told me at his 4 month check up that I should go ahead and start solids! He then looked at me like I was nuts when I told him "No, we'll be waiting until AT LEAST 6 months, as is the current recommendation of the W.H.O, the AAP, Unicef, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as many other medical organizations." The outdated advice and information doctors give (often impressionable) new moms is horrible. Why rush it when waiting a few months can have such a beneficial effect on a babies health? Besides, breastmilk meets ALL of babies nutritional needs for the first year. Solids during that time are for learning and experimentation.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Cheri

    I don't think women should feel that they have to stay at home to exclusively breastfeed their babies. I worked full time with both of my children. My son was a preemie and I went back to work at 12 weeks. He never was able to nurse and I pumped for him for over a year. My daughter never got a single drop of formula and I had to go back to work at 6 weeks with her. She just weaned at 27 months.

    The company I work for was fantastic in their cooperation with my breastfeeding my children. They never blinked an eye when I needed my breaks and I had a very clean, comfortable place to pump. It is a VERY small company and privately owned and have been more than supportive of every decision I've made regarding the care of my children. We need more companies like this. I find it sad that women have to spend their hard earned money on formula when they can give their babies the best without spending a dime. And workplaces need to understand the more they help employees, the better employees they will have.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. AppleADay

    More pediatricians need to learn of the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, and encourage and support mothers' efforts. I exclusively breastfeed (along with solid foods) my 8.5mo old daughter. At her recent wellness visit, her pediatrician scolded me for not cup feeding my daughter! Knowing the benefits of breastmilk, I asked just "what" exactly I was supposed to put in the cup; she replied, "Water, juice...you need to give her a cup, she's not just going to walk into the store, find a cup and start using it - you need to give it to her! It's very important." ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

    Breastmilk provides adequate hydration, crucial electrolytes, beneficial live cell nutrition, has antimicrobial properties, and encourages healthy flora of baby's gut. Introducing supplemental beverages before one year can be detrimental to baby's health - as the article states, making baby more prone to serious infection.

    I ignored my daughter's pediatrician, and I continue to breastfeed. I plan on doing so as long as possible, within reason - probably to 2 years as the WHO recs. I will give baby a cup after one year, when water can be introduced.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. SkepticalNewYork

    I'll go ahead and support the claim that breast feeding is good for a child's digestive tract because it makes sense. However to make assumptions that other issues may not be the cause for respiratory infections doesn't make sense.

    Lets think about how difficult it is to breast feed a baby for 6 months exclusively. Firstly milk, mothers have to physically be around the baby or able to pump during the day to provide milk. This in and of itself is an economic and age segregation technique. Younger moms and less wealthy mothers typically would not be given the leeway in a job to pump for the half hour plus three times a day that is necessary to feed their child. Secondly The children of mothers who need to work to support their family are typically placed in daycare increasing the risk of getting lung infections as they will be around many other children at daycare.

    I guess what I'm saying is that the study may control for these factors by only comparing stay at home mothers who do and don't breastfeed but that's not what is reported here and that's a shame. Of course if a mother stays at home, breast feeds her baby when ever he/she wants and segregate him from all the germs t day care provides he will be healthier. Seems obvious and this article is harmful and hurtful to mothers who can not be with their babies 100% of the time. Don't mix up of cause and effect and please don't report it.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. proud formula feeding mommy

    "It really takes a lot of dedication from the mom's standpoint [to breastfeed] day in and day out for six months."

    Gee, thanks, Dr. Esper. I realize that your intent here was to acknowledge how wonderful yet challenging extended breastfeeding can be, but it takes a little more than just dedication. How about the financial means to stay home for 6+ months, a job that is actually flexible enough to support long-term breastfeeding and/or the ability to breastfeed at all. Implying that moms who opt to formula feed (for whatever reason) are not "dedicated" enough is simply not appropriate.

    Hats off to mommies everywhere for their dedication - regardless of whether they are breast-feeders or formula feeders.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. CFB

    Again reinforcing what women have known for thousands of years. I love that it takes a "new study" to have people realize they should just breastfeed their children!

    June 21, 2010 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Mike Koppenhoffer

    I wonder if the study took into consideration whether the parents who participated in the study were more concerned with their children's well-being than women from other socio-economic environments who chose to formula feed. Point being women from poorer, less-educated cultural backgrounds might be more prone to skip feedings, substitute water for formula or ignore/not understand their child's need to be fed.

    I know we have two children who were formula fed and neither have had any illnesses to speak of whatsoever. My wife was hyper-diligent in her care of our kids when it came to feedings etc and they are off the charts in terms of growth and language/motor skills. Quite frankly I'm tired of being cast as some sort of villain because we chose to formula feed. It's absurd to make new moms feel inferior and castigate because they can't or choose not to breast feed.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Michele

    I have no idea what it is like to be up at night with a sick child. There were times that all the children at a local daycare had strep, except for my child. My son who is almost 17 yrs old, has never had anything more that the common cold. He has an above average IQ. I nursed him exclusively for the first 6 months. The second 6months I continued to nurse but also gave him organic baby food. My sister's children were not nursed and had to have tube in their ears and were sick all the time. Breast is best and it is easier than dealing with formula and all the bottle paraphernalia

    June 21, 2010 at 12:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. OneThought

    I have been blessed enough to have been able to exclusively breastfeed my first and second babies each for the first 6 months of their lives. This is in part due to the wonderful support of my family and my workplace (as I have to work to help support my family). Without the support of the daytime caregiver (my mom) who would feed them the expressed milk, and my employer (who allowed me time to pump each day) I would not have been able to do it. I totally understand why so many working moms stop, but with enough support, many (without serious medical problems) can do it. Let's all extend our support to these moms.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. TerryG

    Articles and studies like this only make mothers who can't breastfeed for whatever reason feel like dirt. Some babies can't latch on properly, some women can't make sufficient milk. So why should these women be made to feel inferior, or like bad mothers? To make the breastmilk only idiots feel better.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Michael

    Now, if we can just convince women that staying at home to raise children is still one of the most rewarding and respectable jobs out there, perhaps we can stop having latch key kids. Or, let the husband stay home instead. One parent should be home full time until the child reaches at least the age of five.

    When you hand your kids off to nannys, daycare, or the grandparents, you are taking away their lives so that you can have your cake and eat it too.

    Your career can wait, but your children only have one chance to get the critical 24/7 attention of a parent to greatly improve the quality of their lives and their peers when parents are part of the community. Handing your kids off to daycare, nannys, and hoping the school will play parents too places a burden on us all.

    Choose one...a career or a child...but not both. Very few people successfully pull it off and pretending that they are the model instead of the exception is making our country suffer..

    June 21, 2010 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bakers Son

    Nature figured this out already!!!! Why the need for 'science' to validate something that has worked for eons? Pardon my ignorance on this question, but has breast-feeding by a healthy Mother ever shown to consistently harm newborns up to 6 months? Maybe that should have been the original research. Then again, the truth may hurt jobs in the formula industry.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. BriTX

    Thank you for posting this. My baby girl is 6.5 months old and I BFed exclusively until she was just a week shy of 6 months. BFing and expressed b.reast milk are still her primary source of food, but we've also introduced iron fortified rice cereal and some organic fruits and veggies.

    I'm constantly hearing from my mom-friends about how their babies are sick with a cold or ear infection. My daughter hasn't been sick once yet and it's not because she hasn't been exposed to illness. The benefits of BFing are undeniable and while it's REALLY hard work – especially when you're back at work and having to pump – it's so very worth it.

    The US really could take a tip from just about any other country out there when it comes to paid maternity leave. We have zero weeks here, folks! That' doesn't exactly foster an environment for mother's to be able to breastfeed for 6 months – it's not impossible, but could we get a little more support, please?!. Spain has 16 weeks, Sweden has 16 months, Italy has 22 weeks...the list goes on. A bare minimum would be 12 weeks paid. That would allow mothers to really get the hang of BFing and eventually pumping and building up a freezer supply if they have to return to work.

    I was lucky to have my daughter at the end of the year so I was able to use my 2009 PTO and then my 2010 deposit when I got it a couple weeks later. That combined with the 4 weeks of short disability I got, bought me about 6 weeks paid. Between savings and getting our tax return a month later, it all worked out. And luckily, my husband works for an amazing company that pays in full for 12 weeks of newborn bonding, for either parent so he stayed home with me. But not everyone is so lucky to work for a progressive company, or have great timing with a tax return being due. And we shouldn't have to be!

    June 21, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Jason

    I am so sick of this already. I will not dispute that breast feeding is better for a baby then anything else, but these retarded articles make you out to be a bad parent if you choose alternatives. My wife had a complication after our first was born and she was on a mediciation that made breast feeding dangerous. So we used formula. And you know what? Everyone is happy and healthy and just fine. So GET OVER IT!

    June 21, 2010 at 12:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Juliana

    Actually James, I appreciate Ms. Falco's use of the words "if possible" – there is a lot of guilt that goes along with not being able to breastfeed (due to a chronic illness, I require medication that would be passed on through breastmilk and is not safe for baby, and although I have survived without some of this medication during my pregnancy, I will need to go back on it once the baby arrives) and it's always nice to hear an acknowledgement that breastfeeding may not be possible for all mothers. I am tired of being made to feel badly for not putting my own health on the line in order to breastfeed or that I am somehow a bad mom-to-be because of it.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Amy

    Breast feeding is a choice. I did not breastfeed my daughter and she did not get her first cold until she was 18 months old. Since then, four years later, she has had four mild colds. She is healthy and happy. Why is it that women have the right to chose to terminate a pregnancy but in the same breath have be bombared with billboards, advertisements, articles and hospital harassment when they CHOSE not to breastfeed. It doesn't matter what the reason, it is a choice of the mother. They are numerous articles and studies that prove that children can be just as healthy and happy without breastfeeding. I wish more emphasis would be placed on providing children with a happy and healthy environment across the board instead of only focusing on breastfeeding.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Heather

    Here in Canada, parents get up to 12 months maternity leave. In many cases, employers will top up the benefits to 80% of your regular salary. I have no idea how people in the States can afford to have children or even stay healthy themselves with the lack of social programs there.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Jen

    I breastfed my first child for the first year of her life while I was a stay-home mom. Now pregnant with my second I am working full time and conserned about being able to breastfed the new baby. I will pump at work but good pumps are several hundreds of dollars. Many friends have offered to let me borrow their pumps; also I have the option to rent a really good one. However the information out there on sharing a breast pump in unclear. Is it safe or not? What have you heard?

    June 21, 2010 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Pamela Cloyd

    James, sometimes it is not just difficult, but literally impossible for a woman to breastfeed. For example if she has had breast reduction surgery, it may not be possible anymore. This can also be the case if the woman must take essential medicinces that are not compatible with breastfeeding. I have heard of several friends who said the milk just didn't come. I don't know whether extra support or training would have helped them, but they definitely wanted to breastfeed and it didn't work for them.

    I breastfeed my two kids for 8 and 20 months respectively (babies are different–my son just stopped after he started on other foods) and it was a big commitment. I could do it because I wasn't working. My hat (or bra?) is off to women who manage to do it while working.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Nora

    I did not breast feed my child at all. I started him right out on infant formula and he was never sick and only had a minor cold that he picked up at a daycare. He was just as healthy if not more than my friends babies that did breast feed. I started him out on baby cereal mixed with his formula at 2 1/2 months and he slept through the night and always had great checkups at the doctor.
    I do not believe that breast feeding alone can prevent any illnesses in babies. I was constantly being pressured to breast feed and I refused.
    I did not like being tied down in that manner and resented the fact that doctors and even friends thought I was harming my baby by feeding him formula. He is now a fine upstanding and very healthy young man and has suffered no ill effects from not being breast fed. If that is a mothers choice to do so then more power to them, but I don't think we should be pressured into breast feeding when no one can guarantee any benefits.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Laura

    To KeithTexas: Your assumption that women would prefer to stay home, and prefer for their husband to be the breadwinner, is not necessarily valid. As a married mother in my early 30s, I'm proud to be able to work while raising my children and to be a primary breadwinner for my household. My mother felt pressured into staying home and always regretted it. She wishes she could have had her children in today's more equal environment.

    To James Akre: You have clearly never breastfed, or you would realize that there are many reasons women can't breastfeed and therefore "if possible" must be included. Some women have had masectomies, some don't produce enough supply and must supplement, while still others have employers who don't support their breastfeeding needs (a place and time to take 2-3 short breaks during the day to pump).

    Regarding the study and breastfeeding: It's clear that there are benefits to breastfeeding. Personally I exclusively breastfed for 6 months and continued at 50%-75% for another couple months. This was only possible because my company allowed me to pump at work. Unless our country supports (1) paid 6 month maternity leave; and/or (2) accomodations to pump at work; you won't see much change in the current statistics.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Purvi

    Chk this out... I want to be one of those 14% people... 🙂

    June 21, 2010 at 12:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. techmom95

    As a mom of three kids, two of whom have severe food allergies, I hope that support for breastfeeding continues to increase. I am currently nursing a 9 month old who is allergic to peanut, tree nut, milk, wheat, oat, soy, corn and beans. Which means I can only eat what he can eat, or he has hives, eczema and bloody diarrhea. But I consider myself lucky that I can manage this problem by eating a careful, if boring diet. Moms who didn't breastfeed, or took bad (though well meaning) advice and weaned early, have babies who are extremely sick. There is only one baby formula not made with corn syrup, and only 9 out of 10 babies allergic to milk and soy can tolerate its hydrolyzed protein. That leaves 1 in 10 who are in trouble. And on another note, guess what hydrolyzed soy protein becomes? MSG. It's the stuff that makes your chicken broth add a *** after the No Added MSG label.

    I lug a pump ($375) to work every day and use it in my office. But not all workplaces make it convenient. A friend who teaches was told she couldn't pump at recess or lunch because she had to be on duty. Another was allowed, but had to do it in her car.

    The hospital lactation consultant was on her day off when my third child was born.

    WIC doesn't pay for breastpumps, but will happily pay for formula. Moms in poor economic situations are exactly the ones whose babies are less likely to get good healthcare and need the breastmilk benefits.

    As a nation, we do not do a good job of promoting breastfeeding. Slapping a label on the formula in small print saying 'breast is best' doesn't cut it. Even a medical study isn't enough to help many moms figure out how to manage it with a job, food allergies, or a sick baby.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Gene

    Well, DUH!

    The biggest problem with breastfeeding exclusively is that many mothers who work are unable to pump while working. I'm a Pediatrician and my daughter is almost 10 months. I've been working full time since she was two months old and she's never had formula. But my employer is very pro breastfeeding. Imagine how needing to take 2-3 twenty minute breaks during an eight hour shift goes over at most places. I had to pump before my shift and then either pump immediately after or feed after, plus 2-3 breaks in between. It takes me away from work, but I know that it is better for her. And she's never been sick enough for me to call off work, even though she's in daycare. Pumping while working full time is a hige commitment and one that will go over better if employers are supportive.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. MommyBBB

    KeithTexas you hit the nail on the head. I went back to work both times as soon as my c-section had healed. At that point in time I struggled with did the feminists really do us a service by tearing our babies from our bosoms so that we could make half of the money in the household. It was really hard for me. But it felt comforting seeing other moms going through the same thing here in the states until I spoke to friends in Europe where they get 9 months off at 100% of their salary and 3 months off on top of the 9 months at 60% of their salary. My European friends all breastfed. My American working friends and myself all bottle fed. My daughters have not been ill at all, besides the usual colds and ear infections. So I have been lucky, I have a wonderful job and we own a home. But at the time that I had to put my newborns in daycare, I felt that I would have given anything to do the right thing and to be with them. At the time, keeping my job was the right thing to do, and breastfeeding fell totally off the radar.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Renae

    @ James Akre... The words "if possible" mean just that.. IF POSSIBLE. As the soon to be mother of my 4th child, and a breast cancer survivor, I resent the comparison of my inability to breastfeed this baby to blowing tobacco in his face. Sometimes it isn't possible, don't talk about things that you don't understand and don't presume to understand so much about breastfeeding and the emotions or attachment that go along with it. Being that you are a man, I assume you have never had the choice to make.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Liz in Seattle

    I breast-fed my child exclusively until four months and then combined breast-feeding with cereal/solid foods until 13 months. I have some friends who introduced solid foods at six months or so, and they all had trouble getting their children to accept the new foods. Maybe it's just a coincidence, but my pediatrician also supported the notion that there may be a window of time when children are more open to accepting cereals, etc. I'm not making a claim just raising a possibility based on my own experience. I think it is important, no matter when solid foods are introduced, to make sure to vary the child's diet a lot so that he or she will consider it normal to try new foods and accept different types of flavors readily. It sure helps with healthy veggies, etc, later on.

    One more note to Mr. Akre's comment about removing the "if possible". Your comparisons to car seat and tobacco guidelines are not appropriate. Many mothers simply cannot breastfeed because of workplace or biological issues. I know many women who were 100% committed to breastfeeding but could not continue because of severe allergies in the child or an impossible work situation. So all of the guidelines that basically say "try as hard as you can" are very valid in my opinion. Taking out the "if possible" just makes women feel worse if they wanted to breastfeed exclusively but couldn't make it work for very valid reasons.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. KPB

    I breastfed my son exclusively for the first 5 months of life (at which point I introduced solid foods), pumped and breastfed until he was 13 months old, and finally weaned him off the breast when he was 2 1/2 years. It was definitely a long and difficult road, especially finding time and place to pump at work, but it was worth it. The medical benefits to breastfeeding are only the start; the emotional and mental benefits are always underestimated. Our Western culture and society do not provide much support for breastfeeding, but I encourage all mothers to stick it out for the first 6 to 8 weeks. It will be hard at first, but at that point it will become natural and much easier. Seek help and guidance from La Leche League or your hospital's breastfeeding support groups, or even online groups. Then set a goal of 6 months or 9 months or 12 months and take it day by day.

    I do not regret a single moment of breastfeeding my child and if I am blessed with any more children, they too will be exclusively breastfed for the first 5-6 months of life (if not longer).

    - KPB, certified lactation educator

    June 21, 2010 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Jayne Charlamb, MD

    Thank you, Ms. Falco and CNN, for highlighting this research.

    It is important to remember, however, that breastfeeding is the *normal* way to nourish a human infant. There are no true "benefits" to breastfeeding. Rather there are "disadvantages" and "risks" involved with formula feeding.

    Therefore, while the authors of this study may have chosen to report their findings in terms of the "protective" nature of breastfeeding, in reality the study does not demonstrate that breastfeeding "protects" infants from infection. Rather, formula use during the first six month of life "increases the risk" of infection.

    Thank you.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Doran Fink

    The Pediatrics article outlined here adds to the considerable body of evidence regarding the benefits of exclusive breastmilk feeding (technically different from exclusive breastfeeding, but equivalent for the purposes of this article) during the first 6 months of infancy. However, there are several issues with Ms. Falco's editorial reporting and the public commentary:
    1. The article assessed risk of common infections of infancy (upper respiratory tract infection, lower respiratory tract infection, and gastrointestinal tract infection) in infants living in a developed country. Contrary to Ms. Falco's claim, the article presents no data nor draws any conclusions on whether exclusive breastfeeding reduces risk of "serious" infections (requiring medical attention or hospitalization, or resulting in increased morbidity or mortality).
    2. Ms. Falco compares exclusive breastfeeding to giving solids, juice, or water; however, the comparison of greatest interest is that of exclusive breastfeeding to formula feeding. Addition of solids, juice, or water typically occurs in the second 6 months of infancy, or later.
    3. The WHO statement that Ms. Falco cites concerning deaths due to pneumonia and diarrhea applies to developing countries; it is unclear whether the statement is impacted by this new data from a developed country where health care access and immunization practices are much better than in developing countries.
    4. Mr. Akre's comments would benefit from a sense of pragmatism that all doctors and health policy experts must incorporate into their recommendations. There are situations in which exclusive breastfeeding is just not possible (for example inability to produce sufficient breastmilk) or even riskier compared to nonbreastfeeding (HIV infection).

    Doran Fink, MD, PhD

    June 21, 2010 at 12:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. CaliforniaMom

    My children and now grown. They were both born in the 70's. I exclusively breastfed my first child until she was 4 months and then introduced solids (no formula). I exclusively breastfed my second child until he was six months old. My first child has breathing and intestinal issues as my second child exhibits none of those issues. I was furtunate that I was able to be home during that time in their life. My daughter returned to work when her child was 3 months old but was able to pump at work in order to continue to provide breastmilk exclusively for the first six months. It is a challenge but it's only for 6 months to a year and the benefits far exceed the temporary inconvenience.

    June 21, 2010 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
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