“Breastfeeding and human milk are the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition. Given the documented short- and long-term medical and neurodevelopmental advantages of breastfeeding, infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice…Pediatricians play a critical role in their practices and communities as advocates of breastfeeding and thus should be knowledgeable about the health risks of not breastfeeding, the economic benefits to society of breastfeeding, and the techniques for managing and supporting the breastfeeding dyad.”
There is overwhelming support of breastfeeding by prominent healthcare organizations and agencies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a policy statement regarding breastfeeding in February 2012.
The AAP guidelines should be followed to ensure infants and mothers receive all the benefits breast milk and breastfeeding has to offer:
- Exclusive breastfeeding with no supplemental fluids or solid foods is the best practice for about the first 6 months of life for optimal infant growth and development.
- Newborns should receive a one-time dose of 0.5mg-1mg of vitamin K1 oxide intramuscularly after the first feeding is completed and within the first 6 hours of life.
- 400 IU of oral vitamin D drops given daily is recommended beginning at hospital discharge, continuing through the first 2 months of life or until the infant is exposed to natural sunlight enabling synthesis of his/her own vitamin D.
- In the limited situations in which infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, there are several recommended alternatives:
- These options include expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother or breast milk from a human-milk bank.
- Infant formula, juices, or water are not needed in the first six months and may only introduce contaminants or allergens.
- Solid foods may be introduced around 6 months, but should not completely replace breastfeeding and should serve as iron-rich complements to breast milk.
- Breastfeeding should be continued through the first year of life and beyond as mutually desired by mother and child.
- If a baby is weaned before 12 months of age, the child should receive iron-fortified infant formula, not cow’s milk.
- Pediatricians have a critical role in their individual practices, communities, and society at large to serve as advocates and supporters of successful breastfeeding.