Human milk provides the best nutrition for most babies and breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for infants and very young children, according to an updated position paper from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The paper also outlines the health risks of not breastfeeding, which include increased rates of infant and maternal morbidity and mortality, increased health care costs and significant economic losses to families and employers.
The position paper "Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding," published in the March Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, states:
It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life and that breastfeeding with complementary foods from six months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Breastfeeding is an important public health strategy for improving infant and child morbidity and mortality, improving maternal morbidity and helping to control health care costs.
According to the position paper: "Research continues to support the positive effects of human milk on infant and maternal health, as it is a living biological fluid with many qualities not replicable by human milk substitutes. Recent research advancements include a greater understanding of the human gut microbiome, the protective effect of human milk for premature infants and those born to women experiencing gestational diabetes mellitus, the relationship of breastfeeding with human immunodeficiency virus and the increased ability to characterize cellular components of human milk."
The authors of the Academy's position paper note that:
• Human milk contains components that cannot be manufactured in infant formula.
• Rates of breastfeeding are improving, but young women, low-income women, women living in certain regions of the U.S. and African-American women continue to have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the United States.
• This updated position paper highlights the costs of not breastfeeding and supports providing breast milk as the best way to feed babies.
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