Nursing exclusively for six months, then with food until at least 12 months is ideal, the ADA said in a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the ADA.
“It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first six months of life and breastfeeding with complementary food from six months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants,” the ADA said.
“Breastfeeding is an important public health strategy for improving infant and child morbidity and mortality and improving maternal morbidity and helping to control health care costs.”
“Research is especially needed on the effectiveness of breastfeeding promotion campaigns,” said the association.
Having conducted an evidence-based review of breastfeeding’s history, practices and health benefits in the United States and other countries, the ADA concluded that breast milk features optimal nutrient composition for infants and reduces the risk for many acute and chronic conditions.
According to the study, breastfeeding offers the following benefits for infants:
– A stronger immune system;
– Decreased risk of asthma, lower respiratory tract infections and gastroenteritis;
– Improved protection against allergies and intolerances;
– Proper development of jaw and teeth;
– Association with higher IQ and better grades in school; and
– Reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome, as well as chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and childhood leukemia.
The benefits of breastfeeding for mothers include:
– Quality time spent bonding with baby;
– Quicker return to pre-pregnancy weight due to increased calorie expenditure;
– Less postpartum bleeding, faster shrinking of the uterus and return to menstrual cycle;
– Lowered risks for breast and ovarian cancer, as well as type II diabetes;
– Better bone density with less risk of hip fracture;
– Improved self-esteem and less risk of postpartum depression; and
– Cost savings from not buying formula.