The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding for all infants. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) similarly recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, continuing at least through the infant’s first birthday, and as long thereafter as is mutually desired. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 2 years of breastfeeding for all infants.
"Health outcomes differ substantially for mothers and infants who formula feed compared with those who breastfeed, even in developed countries such as the United States. A recent meta-analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reviewed this evidence in detail:
- For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, including otitis media, gastroenteritis, and pneumonia, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Among premature infants, not receiving breast milk is associated with an increased risk of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
- For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and the metabolic syndrome."
Low Breastfeeding Rates and Public Health in the United States - This is an excellent article which provides an overview of the history of breastfeeding as a public health issue in the last century. It's chock full of information and explains very effectively the need for more mothers to initiate breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding as long as possible. It opened my eyes to some of the real issues in the ongoing debate of breast milk versus formula.