Breastfeeding can be a time-consuming endeavor, whether you’re nursing the baby or pumping milk while you’re on the job — in 2015, 26.8% of respondents to a survey said they expressed milk between five and 15 times a week. Now, a new report says that too many mothers are stopping breastfeeding too soon, and a task force of doctors and nurses should be deployed to change that.
Convincing evidence “that breastfeeding provides substantial health benefits for children” has prompted the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force to issue guidelines stipulating that primary care providers should discuss breastfeeding with women when they are pregnant, at the hospital where they give birth, and after they go home with their babies.
Healthy People 2020, a government initiative, aims to have 81.9% of new mothers nursing their babies, with 60.6% continuing for six months, and 34.1% for one full year.
The current task force, a group of experts appointed by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare and Research and Quality, came to its conclusions and advice after looking at dozens of medical studies, which overall indicated that encouraging breastfeeding has a net benefit not just for the babies, but for the mothers as well.
Breastfeeding is excellent for babies — studies showed that babies who breastfeed are less likely to get ear infections, asthma, gastrointestinal infections, and rashes. Mothers also benefit, with reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and Type 2 diabetes.
Currently, although 80% of mother start breastfeeding, only 51.4% are still nursing after six months. Only 29.2% nurse for a whole year.
In order to shrink that gap, the panel of experts wants healthcare providers to start encouraging women to breastfeed from the very beginning, even before their babies are born. One-on-one counseling should be provided to help mothers master nursing after delivery.
Still, the panel emphasizes that if mothers decide not to breastfeed, doctors should respect their choices.
“Any breastfeeding appears to be more beneficial than no breastfeeding, and longer durations of breastfeeding confer greater benefits than shorter durations,” said the task force.