Volume 109, Issue 11, Pages 1926-1942 (November 2009)
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life and breastfeeding with complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants. Breastfeeding is an important public health strategy for improving infant and child morbidity and mortality, improving maternal morbidity, and helping to control health care costs. Breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of otitis media, gastroenteritis, respiratory illness, sudden infant death syndrome, necrotizing enterocolitis, obesity, and hypertension. Breastfeeding is also associated with improved maternal outcomes, including a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. These reductions in acute and chronic illness help to decrease health care related expenses and productive time lost from work. Overall breastfeeding rates are increasing, yet disparities persist based on socioeconomic status, maternal age, country of origin, and geographic location. Factors such as hospital practices, knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes of mothers and their families, and access to breastfeeding support can influence initiation, duration, and exclusivity of breastfeeding. As experts in food and nutrition throughout the life cycle, it is the responsibility of registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered, to promote and support breastfeeding for its short-term and long-term health benefits for both mothers and infants.