It’s now National Breastfeeding Month — and World Breastfeeding Week.
Of infants born in the U.S. in 2013, 81.1 percent were breastfed, with 51.8 percent breastfeeding at six months and 30.7 percent breastfeeding at 12 months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
The practice may offer babies and their moms a number of health benefits. Here’s what you should know.
The health benefits and effects for babies. Breast milk is "a great source of nutrition for the baby," Dr. Deb Galuska, associate director of science with the CDC, told Fox News.
The milk offers health benefits and helps protect babies from diarrhea, ear infections, and respiratory infections, she said, explaining that breastfed babies are also at a lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome, diabetes, and obesity.
There are also other positives. Breastfeeding is unique in that it "allows for the bond between the mother and the baby," Dr. Martha Caprio, a neonatologist with NYU Langone Medical Center, told Fox News.
For breastfed babies, weight gain may be lower compared to formula-fed babies, Caprio explained, citing the "Gerber-style" look. However, she said that it's not considered a negative effect of breastfeeding.
"Benefits far outweigh" possible issues, she said.
Benefits for moms. Women who breastfeed have a lower likelihood of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, Galuska said. Women can also maintain their weight and possibly lose weight, according to Caprio.
Are there times when women should not breastfeed? Women who have HIV or take certain types of medications should avoid breastfeeding, Galuska said, explaining that they should talk to their doctor first. Though women who smoke may breastfeed, she said, "we would certainly encourage a woman who was smoking to quit smoking."
How long should I breastfeed my baby? Galuska said that the CDC follows the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which involves exclusively breastfeeding — meaning no other liquids or foods — for the first six months. The AAP recommends adding food to the baby's diet after that time frame while continuing to breastfeed "until at least 12 months" or "as long as mutually desired by mother and baby."
Continuing the practice past one year can have positive upsides for babies and moms, according to the Mayo Clinic.
"Extended breastfeeding — as well as breastfeeding for 12 months or more cumulatively in life — has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes" for a breastfeeding mom, the clinic says.
But long-term breastfeeding can increase the likelihood of cavities in young children. A study published in Pediatrics in June found there was a 2.4 times higher risk of severe cavities for children who were breastfed for two or more years compared to those breastfed for up to one year, according to a press release for the study. Breastfeeding "between 13 and 23 months had no effect on" cavities, the study said.
"There are some reasons to explain such an association," the study's lead author, Dr. Karen Peres, told CNN. "First, children who are exposed to breastfeeding beyond 24 months are usually those breastfed on demand and at night. Second, higher frequency of breastfeeding and nocturnal breastfeeding on demand makes it very difficult to clean teeth in this specific period."
This Fox News article is used by permission.
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Last Modified: August 2, 2017, 11:21 am