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More moms should breastfeed for six months, surgeon general advises [Updated]

January 20, 2011|By Mary Forgione, Tribune Health

New mothers receive lots of advice about breastfeeding but not typically from the U.S. surgeon general. The nation's top doctor issued breastfeeding guidelines Thursday that urge more mothers to give their babies a healthy edge by breastfeeding for the first six months of their lives.

The "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding" report by Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin's says 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding but only 13% continue to do so by the end of six months. It also says breastfeeding rates are particularly low among African Americans.

Why is the 6-month period critical? The report says:

"Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, and those who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Mothers themselves who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers."

And of course there's an economic boost too. A study last year from Pediatrics said the nation would save $13 billion in healthcare and related costs if U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for six months. Wow, that's a lot of baby formula. Check out the surgeon general's full report here.

But not everyone agrees. This Booster Shots post explains why British researchers say new moms shouldn't breastfeed exclusively in the first six months. [Updated Thursday 11:45 a.m.:
An earlier version of this article misstated the British researchers' results by saying they suggested that moms shouldn't breastfeed in the first six months.]


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