Most health professionals are familiar with the benefits of breastfeeding. The AAP continues to support the unequivocal evidence that breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases and conditions.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Children who are breastfed experience improved dental health and neurodevelopmental outcomes. They have decreased risk of:
- Otitis media
- Respiratory tract infection
- Necrotizing enterocolitis
- Atopic dermatitis
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis
- Late-onset sepsis in preterm infants
- Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- Childhood overweight and obesity
There are also maternal health benefits to breastfeeding such as decreased risk of the following:
- Decreased excessive menstrual blood loss
- Breast, ovarian, endometrial and thyroid cancers
- Type 2 diabetes
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
Note that the above benefits include those for which the strongest evidence exists but are not all-inclusive. Breastfeeding is also a great benefit to the environment and society. Breastfeeding families are sick less often and the parents miss less work. It does not require the use of energy for manufacturing or create waste or air pollution. There is no risk of contamination and breast milk is always available, at the right temperature and ready to feed, even in the case of emergency situations, such as natural disasters.
Contraindications to breastfeeding
The only true contraindications to breastfeeding are the following:
- infants with classic galactosemia (galactose 1-phosphate uridyltransferase deficiency)
- mothers, in the US, who are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Refer to the policy statement for other conditions that may require further investigation.
Breastfeeding is NOT contraindicated with the following conditions:
- infants born to mothers who are hepatitis B surface antigen-positive
- mothers who are infected with hepatitis C virus (persons with hepatitis C virus antibody or hepatitis C virus-RNA-positive blood)
- mothers who are febrile (unless cause is a contraindication outlined in the previous section)
- mothers who have been exposed to low-level environmental chemical agents
- mothers who are seropositive carriers of cytomegalovirus (CMV) (not recent converters if the infant is term)
- mothers who smoke tobacco (though they should be encouraged to quit) or have an occasional celebratory drink
- the great majority of babies with jaundice or hyperbilirubinemia can continue to be breastfed without interruption
The Pediatrician's Role
Pediatricians can play a key role in promoting breastfeeding and supporting families. You can:
- Assist families in making an informed decision about infant feeding by proactively discussing the benefits of breastfeeding
- Educate yourself about breastfeeding and how to care for breastfeeding families in your practice
- Know how to assess adequacy of breastfeeding and manage common breastfeeding problems
- Know the local resources available to you and your patients (WIC, breastfeeding support groups, lactation consultants, breastfeeding medicine specialists, breast pump rental stations, etc.)
- Provide support and guidance to women who wish to return to work or school while breastfeeding
- Display positive images of breastfeeding in your office and encourage the elimination of practices that interfere with breastfeeding (free formula, industry gifts, or coupons to parents, separation of mother and infant, inappropriate feeding images, etc.)Support breastfeeding research and advocate for positive media coverage about breastfeeding.
- Advocate for positive media coverage about breastfeeding.
American Academy of Pediatrics