New breastfeeding guidelines show there are many benefits for a mother and child, but there’s now a push to create more widespread support.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life, up to at least two years of age.
“There are numerous benefits for the baby. What we realize is there’s also lots of benefits for the mom, especially in that second year of life,” said Dr. Sahira Long, Interim Division Chief of General Pediatrics at Children’s National and a lactation expert.
The benefits include a reduced risk of certain breast and ovary cancers as well as high blood pressure. The benefits for babies include a decreased risk of ear infections, pneumonia and sudden infant death syndrome.
Increasing breastfeeding in all groups is also a way to eliminate disparities connected to certain health risks. The longer a mother breastfeeds each child also increases her overall health benefits.
“Science has not always been available to let us know why it happens, we just know that it does in numerous studies across the globe,” added Dr. Long.
She says the AAP’s recommendations of breastfeeding will face even more societal pushback than what women already face, making prenatal support and access to resources crucial, especially in the workplace.
There are some protections in the workplace as a result of the Affordable Care Act, but they do not extend to all women, like teachers.
“There’s additional efforts that are being made, a lot of things that are good for families are having trouble making it through Congress,” stressed Dr. Long.
Overall societal support is a major hurdle Dr. Long says must be addressed.
“In my ideal world, we would get to a place where moms can breastfeed wherever they choose to be. If your baby needs to eat, your baby needs to eat and you shouldn’t feel ashamed of doing what’s best for you and your baby,” Dr. Long said.
Resources available include the D.C. Breast Feeding Coalition’s free breastfeeding resource guide and the Lactation Support Center through Children’s National. Services are also available through some WIC agencies and The Breast Feeding Center for Greater Washington.