Time cover masks problem: Too few kids breast-fed

May 11, 2012 By LAURAN NEERGAARD , AP Medical Writer
This image provided by Time magazine shows the cover of the May 21, 2012 issue with a photograph of Jamie Lynne Grumet, 26, breastfeeding her 3-year-old son for a story on "attachment parenting." Grumet, a stay-at-home mom in Los Angeles who says her mother breastfed her until she was 6 years old, told the magazine in an interview that she's given up reasoning with strangers who see her son nursing and threaten “to call social services on me or that it's child molestation." About three-quarters of U.S. mothers say they breast-feed during their baby's first days and weeks of life. Then it drops off fast. But by 2020, the nation's health goals call for more than a quarter of babies to be exclusively breast-fed through their first six months of life, and for more than a third to still be nursing when they turn 1 year old. (AP Photo/Time)

(AP) -- The real issue with breast-feeding is this: Too few infants who could really benefit from it are getting mom's milk.

Sure, Time magazine's cover photo of a woman breast-feeding her 3-year-old is generating debate about how old is too old. But examples like that are pretty rare.

About 44 percent of U.S. moms do at least some breast-feeding for six months. But only 15 percent follow advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies receive alone for that time span. And fewer still stick with breast-feeding for a year, also recommended by the academy.

About three-quarters of mothers say they breast-feed during their baby's first days and weeks of life. Then it drops off fast.

By their first birthday, fewer than a quarter of children are getting breast milk, according to the government's latest national report card on breast-feeding.

That's a public health issue, because breast-feeding brings so many benefits to babies.

By 2020, the nation's call for more than a quarter of babies to be exclusively breast-fed through their first six months of life, and for more than a third to still be nursing when they turn 1 year old.

To help reach those goals, the surgeon general last year issued a call to ease the obstacles that make it harder for women to breast-feed - from the hassles of pumping milk at work to a general lack of understanding about how super-healthy it is during that critical first year.

"We have a lot more work to do," says Academy of Pediatrics' spokeswoman Dr. Tanya Altmann, a near Los Angeles. "It would be much more beneficial to focus on breast-feeding infants and young toddlers," she said, than on the rare older examples like Time found for its cover.

Not every mother can or chooses to breast-feed. And the surgeon general's report said they shouldn't be made to feel guilty.

But the academy's latest update, published in March in the , lists the benefits of breast-feeding for at least several months and up to a year: Breast-fed infants have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome. They suffer fewer illnesses such as diarrhea, earaches and pneumonia, because breast milk contains antibodies that help fend off infections until their own immune systems become robust. They're also less likely to develop asthma, or even to become fat later in childhood.

Moms can benefit, too, decreasing their risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer.

How old is too old for the child? The pediatricians' guidelines say breast-feeding should continue along with solid foods to age 1 - "or as long as mutually desired by mother and infant."

The World Health Organization recommends continuing "along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or beyond."

Toddlers sometimes make clear that they prefer a cup, but Altmann says if both mom and child are comfortable, there's no harm in going longer than average.

Still, the clear nutritional benefit wanes as youngsters start getting most of their nutrition from solid food, and Altmann says parents need to teach their tots to soothe themselves.

"At some point it's less about nutrition and more about comfort," says Altmann, who breast-fed her own two sons until they were 1.

Explore further: Researcher urges study of effects of breast pumps

shares

Related Stories

Researcher urges study of effects of breast pumps

July 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The widespread use of electric breast pumps by American women is fueling a "quiet revolution" in how infants receive their mothers' milk, argues Cornell nutritionist Kathleen Rasmussen in a commentary ...

Manual breast milk expression better than breast pump for poor feeders

July 19, 2011
Expressing breast milk by hand in the first days after birth is better for boosting breastfeeding rates among poorly feeding newborns than the use of a breast pump, indicates a small study published online in the Archives ...

Study: Infant formula ads reduce breast-feeding

November 3, 2011
The World Health Organization said a study has found that Filipino mothers who have been influenced by advertisements or their doctors to use infant formula are two to four times more likely to feed their babies with those ...

Recommended for you

Children who sleep an hour less at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, says study

August 15, 2017
A study has found that children who slept on average one hour less a night had higher risk factors for type 2 diabetes, including higher levels of blood glucose and insulin resistance.

Low blood sugars in newborns linked to later difficulties

August 8, 2017
A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that shows up by age 4.5 years.

Can breast milk feed a love of vegetables?

August 4, 2017
(HealthDay)—Want your preschooler to eat veggies without a fuss? Try eating veggies while you're breast-feeding.

Small drop in measles vaccinations would have outsized effect, study estimates

July 24, 2017
Small reductions in childhood measles vaccinations in the United States would produce disproportionately large increases in the number of measles cases and in related public health costs, according to a new study by researchers ...

At the cellular level, a child's loss of a father is associated with increased stress

July 18, 2017
The absence of a father—due to incarceration, death, separation or divorce—has adverse physical and behavioral consequences for a growing child. But little is known about the biological processes that underlie this link ...

New comparison chart sheds light on babies' tears

July 10, 2017
A chart that enables parents and clinicians to calculate if a baby is crying more than it should in the first three months of its life has been created by a Kingston University London researcher, following a study of colic ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PeterD
not rated yet May 14, 2012
People are such idiots. For most of human history children have been nursed until they were 5 or 6. My daughter did it right, and nursed my grandson until he was five,and he slept with his parents until then, too. That's the way it should be done!

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.