AAP Announces New Breastfeeding Guidelines
Whether or not to breastfeed is an incredibly personal decision that every parent has to make. How long they breastfeed, or whether they do at all, is something that is unique to every family. That said, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) this week provided new breastfeeding guidelines. This was done within an updated policy statement and report, titled “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk,” which was published in Pediatrics (July 2022).
As always, we aim to provide our readers with the most up-to-date and relevant information possible to help you to decide what is best for your family and baby. In fact, this is the first time the AAP has updated its recommendations with new breastfeeding guidelines in a decade. This is an important development, so we want you to know about these latest studies.
What Hasn’t Changed?
While there are new breastfeeding guidelines, not everything has changed. Some previous recommendations remain as standard counsel.
Among the advice that hasn’t changed is the recommendation for babies to be exclusively breastfed for six months, in cases where this is possible. At that point, some foods can be introduced to their diet as the mother continues to nurse.
Previously assessed benefits for the baby also remain the same. The new AAP report refers to several benefits to breastfed babies, including less lower respiratory tract infections, diarrhea and ear infections, as well as lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
Changes: New Breastfeeding Guidelines
While much of the above information remains the same, there are also new breastfeeding guidelines to consider. Most significantly, the AAP has extended the endorsed period of time for which breastfeeding is recommended – touting the benefits of long-term feeding for two years or more.
Beyond the AAP’s continued recommendations, a standard “stopping point” in society is often the baby’s first birthday. However, the AAP’s recommendation is now that babies should breastfeed for two years or more, if “mutually desired by mothers and their babies.” These new breastfeeding guidelines are similar to that from the World Health Organization, which has endorsed these longer feeding windows for some time.
Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC, lead author of the reports, added: “Breast milk is unique in its nutrients and protective effects, and really quite remarkable when you look at what it does for a child’s developing immune system.”
In addition to this longer time period, these new breastfeeding guidelines also refer to the health of the mother. Research shows that the mother also benefits from these extended recommendations with a decreased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, as well as breast and ovarian cancers.
What Else is Needed to Support New Families?
This report also acknowledges obstacles that nursing mothers often face. Barriers often prevent continued nursing despite proven benefits. Therefore, the report stresses that additional support should be provided for breastfeeding mothers, with an aim of normalizing longer breastfeeding.
It also urges pediatricians to have “non-judgmental conversations” with families, wherein they outline feeding choices, including continued breastfeeding and alternative options such as formula.
Breastfeeding Isn’t Always Right for Everyone – And That’s Okay
All of this said, breastfeeding is not always the right choice right for everyone. This can be the case for a number of reasons. As a result, a family should never be judged or made to feel guilty for their informed decision.
In the report, the new AAP acknowledges that exclusive breastfeeding is not always possible. What may work well for one family will not necessarily work for another. That’s okay. The most important thing is for parents to provide their children with the best possible nutrition to the best of their ability.