TUESDAY, Oct. 21, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors, nurses, hospitals and health systems should encourage and promote breast-feeding, says a new recommendation from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
Members of the task force evaluated more than 25 studies of breast-feeding interventions conducted in the United States and other developed countries and concluded that coordinated interventions throughout pregnancy, birth and infancy can increase breast-feeding initiation, duration and exclusivity (when an infant receives no other food or drink besides breast milk).
The findings and recommendation were published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
"Our review produced adequate evidence that multifaceted breast-feeding interventions work," task force chair Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said in an American College of Physicians news release.
"We found that interventions that include both prenatal and postnatal components may be the most effective at increasing breast-feeding duration. Many successful program include peer support, prenatal breast-feeding education, or both," Calonge said.
In 2005, 73 percent of new mothers in the United States initiated breast-feeding but only 14 percent of infants were exclusively breast-fed for their first six months, as recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.
"We hope these [task force] recommendations will help women and their physicians understand what they need to do to start and continue breast-feeding their babies. Simply telling mothers they should breast-feed or giving them pamphlets is not enough," Calonge said.
Breast-feeding offers major health benefits to both infants and mothers, according to background information in the news release. Breast-fed babies have fewer infections and allergic skin reactions than formula-fed babies and are also less likely to fall victim to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In the long-term, children who were breast-fed are less likely to develop asthma, diabetes, obesity and childhood leukemia.
Women who breast-fed were less likely than those who never breast-fed to develop type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more about breast-feeding.