American Dietetic Association Supports Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding
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CHICAGO – The American Dietetic Association strongly endorses the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding that was released on Thursday, January 20. The Call to Action was released prior to a meeting of the United States Breastfeeding Committee, a nonprofit coalition of more than 40 organizations that includes the American Dietetic Association.
ADA believes breastfeeding offers the maximum health and nutritional benefits for infants and mothers alike, and helps control health-care costs.
“Breastfeeding is the optimal feeding method for an infant, and women who choose to breastfeed should be encouraged and supported, given the numerous health benefits for both the mother and child,” says registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association Spokesperson Melinda Johnson.
“The benefits of breastfeeding make it worth discussing with your physician, lactation consultant and a registered dietitian,” Johnson says.
ADA’s support of the Surgeon General’s Call to Action is based on ADA’s official position on breastfeeding, published in November 2009: “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.”
ADA’s extensive scientific review in developing the Association’s position on breastfeeding also found:
- Exclusive breastfeeding with no foods or liquids other than breast milk provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first six months of life.
- Human milk offers optimal nutrient composition for infants and reduces the risk for a large number of acute and chronic illnesses.
- Breastfeeding improves maternal health and well-being and saves families time and money.
- Support for breastfeeding mothers from families, friends, health-care professionals, hospitals and employers is an important public health strategy for increasing rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity.
ADA offers a wealth of information on healthy nutrition for infants, new mothers and pregnant women, including the book Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During and After Pregnancy.
According to Johnson, health benefits of breastfeeding for infants include:
- Enhanced immune system
- Reduced risk for nonspecific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections and asthma
- Protection against allergies and intolerances
- Promotion of correct development of jaw and teeth
- Association with higher intelligence quotient and school performance through adolescence
- Reduced risk for chronic disease such as obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia and childhood leukemia
- Reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome.
Nutrition and health benefits of breastfeeding for the mother include:
- Strong bonding with infant
- Increased calorie expenditure, which may lead to faster return to pre-pregnancy weight
- Faster shrinking of the uterus
- Reduced postpartum bleeding and delays in the menstrual cycle
- Decreased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer
- Improved bone density and decreased risk for hip fracture
- Decreased risk for postpartum depression
- Enhanced self-esteem in the maternal role
- Money saved from not buying formula and increased medical expenses associated with formula feeding.