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Pediatricians reaffirm breastfeeding guidelines

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Women should breastfeed their newborns exclusively for about the first six months of life, after which some foods can be added along with continued breastfeeding, according to updated guidelines from United States pediatricians.
The recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which call for additional breastfeeding until a baby's first birthday or longer, are similar to those from the World Health Organization, which promotes breastfeeding for the benefit of both moms and babies.
"It's a health choice and not just a lifestyle choice, and it's going to protect her baby as well as her," said Dr. Richard Schanler, a neonatologist from North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System and one of the guideline's co-authors.
"Our problem as pediatricians is we're not getting that message across enough to mothers," he told Reuters Health.
Although the six-month exclusive breastfeeding recommendation is not new, AAP members said that it's a firmer guideline, with more evidence behind it, than in the organization's last breastfeeding statement published in 2005.
Recent studies suggest that only about 13 percent of moms in the U.S. still haven't used any formula or added solid foods at six months.
And many women, especially young, poor mothers, don't ever start breastfeeding, according to the report, published in Pediatrics.
That's worrisome because breastfeeding provides babies with a range of health benefits, including protection against respiratory and ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome.
Later in life, some evidence also suggests that kids and adults who were breastfed are less likely to be obese or have diabetes, and tend to score higher on intelligence tests -- although it's not clear that's because of the breastfeeding.
"It's clear that in order to realize all of those benefits, to ward off all of these adverse health outcomes, you need exclusive breastfeeding," said Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, a pediatrician at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, and chairperson of the policy committee for the AAP's Section on Breastfeeding.
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