By Nicole Gregory
The benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and their babies are many and far-reaching. For starters, it protects babies against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies like asthma and eczema; it also seems to reduce risk of obesity later in life.
See more: Does Formula Cause Obesity?
The benefits of breastfeeding extends to moms, too. Breastfeeding helps nursing moms return to prepregnancy weight, decreases postpartum bleeding and decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Because of this, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this year reaffirmed its recommendations that new mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months, followed by breastfeeding with other foods until 12 months of age or longer.
“The AAP section on breastfeeding was initiated as a task force in 1994,” says Richard Schanler, MD, Director of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York and professor at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. The AAP policy statement was written in 1997, and is renewed or revised every five years, says Schanler, who is also the chair of the breastfeeding section of the AAP. If new benefits of breastfeeding are discovered, they are added to the AAP statement.
Although the AAP recommends that women breastfeed exclusively for six months, and breastfeed along with supplementing with other foods for a year, Schanler says women should be complimented on their efforts no matter how long they’re able to keep up breastfeeding.