MONDAY, Feb. 27, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- Breast-feeding exclusively is recommended for a baby's first six months of life, followed by continued breast-feeding along with food until a baby is at least 12 months old, the American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms in a new policy statement.
After 12 months, breast-feeding can continue as long as both mother and baby want to do it, according to the statement published online Feb. 27 and in the March print issue of Pediatrics.
Along with being a natural and beneficial source of nutrition that provides the healthiest start in life for an infant, breast-feeding also promotes bonding between mother and child, the AAP says.
The health benefits of breast-feeding include protection against respiratory illness, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, asthma and the skin condition eczema.
Breast-fed infants are more than one-third less likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome and are 15 to 30 percent less likely to become obese teens and adults, according to the AAP.
An academy news release says that "choosing to breast-feed should be considered an investment in the short- and long-term health of the infant, rather than a lifestyle choice."
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about breast-feeding.