The American Academy of Pediatrics just published a policy statement reiterating their recommendation that infants should be breastfed exclusively for 6 months. They also made this recommendation in their 2005 paper, but this time they actually quantify the health benefits.
The authors wrote that others have suggested that more than 900 infant deaths per year in the United States could be prevented if 90% of mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months. They also cited evidence that breastfeeding improves neurodevelopmental outcomes and enhances development of host defenses in infants born preterm. Other benefits include the following:
- 72% reduction in hospitalization for respiratory infections
- 64% reduction in the incidence of gastrointestinal infections
- 58% to 77% reduction in the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis
- 36% to 45% reduction in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
- 27% to 42% reduction in the incidence of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema
- 52% reduction in the risk of celiac disease
- 31% reduction in the risk of inflammatory bowel disease
- 15% to 30% reduction in the incidence of obesity in adolescences and adulthood
- 15% to 20% reduction in the risk of childhood leukemia and lymphoma.
I’ve also proposed arguments made by dentists that bottle-feeding increases your risk of dental crowding and malocclusion. The smaller your jaws, the less airway you’ll have to breathe through properly during the day and especially at night. Notice that sleep-related breathing problems can directly or indirectly influence most, if not all the bullets listed above.
It’s also important to note that the physical act of breastfeeding itself is what protects against dental crowding and an increased risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea later in life. Obviously, exclusive breastfeeding without pumping is not practical or realistic in our society. However, you have to think about these implications.
Do you think Pediatricians are going a good job promoting breastfeeding?