Doctors should encourage breastfeeding. Best for mother, baby. All groups agree.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Want to give your baby the best?  Feed him/her only mother’s milk for the first 12 months.  An added incentive is it helps the mother’s health, also.  I thought everybody knew breastfeeding was the ideal until a woman asked me if the new report from the Annals of Internal Medicine , which reiterates this, was accurate.  October’s Annals updates previous recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force that health-care providers should do all they can to actively support breast feeding.

Why do they feel the need to call for more support?

The benefits of breastfeeding are substantial. Studies have found that breastfeeding decreases the baby’s risk of:

  • ear infections
  • gastrointestinal infections
  • skin rashes
  • lung infections
  • leukemia
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • obesity
  • asthma

Not to mention bond between mother and baby.

In addition, breastfeeding decreases the mother’s risk of:

  • breast cancer
  • ovarian cancer
  • type 2 diabetes

All of the above is really a given.  There are not many things you can advise medically with so many benefits and so little downside.  Only mothers with HIV and on certain meds should avoid it.  The Annals is just trying to get us to become more proactive in supporting mothers.  Just advising the mother to breastfeed is not enough.

In 2005, 73 percent of new mothers tried breastfeeding but only 39 percent continued for 6 months.  By 12 months, the percentage was down to 20 percent.  A measly 14 percent were breastfeeding exclusively by six months.  Mothers need support on how to initiate feedings and continue them, and what to do in the workplace.

The report recommends, before and after delivery, that health-care providers:

  • provide formal education for the mothers and families
  • directly observe breastfeeding and give tips, support
  • train the health-care supporters on giving proper instruction

The following groups have tons of info.  Just search “breastfeeding.”  American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and La Leche League. In addition, the picture above is an image from the video the American College of Physicians made on the topic.

Do you have any further tips or comments?  What about the workplace?  How to you cope?  What about breast pumps and milk storage?  Does anybody think this is controversial advice?

By the way, don’t forget their vitamin D.

You can view the Annals video on this subject on our videos page.

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7 Responses to “Doctors should encourage breastfeeding. Best for mother, baby. All groups agree.”

  1. Sagan Says:

    Wow- I knew that breastfeeding was good, but I didn’t realize to what extent it had so many benefits. I will have to pass on the information to my auntie with her newborns:) (she’s making sure to breastfeed!)

  2. James Hubbard Says:

    Thanks Sagan:

    Hope she has some support for questions. La Leche League is great and has phone support and groups. Of course her doctor and staff may be the best alternative.

  3. Dr. J Says:

    When I was in medical school, I had a conversation with the chairman of pediatrics who felt that formula was the way to go! I disagreed, but the prevailing trend at the time was formula. I’m glad to see that progress has been made by the medical communities thinking in this area. Thanks for this information!

  4. James Hubbard Says:

    Thanks Dr J
    He would be in the minority now.

  5. Steve Parker, M.D. Says:

    I read about 10 years ago that breastfed infants grow into adults with an IQ about 5% higher than non-breastfed. Not sure if that has held up. Probably difficult to do a study to prove it. An extra 5 points on IQ is worth something, I bet.


  6. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Thanks Steve,

    5 points would be impressive since the IQ points are on a logarithmic scale.

  7. m Says:

    Very good! Such good information! Thank you!

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