“The average age at weaning ranges anywhere from six months to five years,” says Arthur Eidelman, MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. All major medical organizations recommend about six months of exclusive breastfeeding. Together with the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and US Surgeon’s General Call to Action, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends that breastfeeding should be continued through infancy and beyond.
“Claims that breastfeeding beyond infancy is harmful to mother or infant have absolutely no medical or scientific basis,” says Dr. Eidelman. “Indeed, the more salient issue is the damage caused by modern practices of premature weaning.”
Human milk contains nutrients, antibodies, and immune-modulating substances that are not present in infant formula or cow’s milk. Longer breastfeeding duration is further associated with reduced maternal risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and heart attack.
Evidence-based risks of weaning too early have been largely ignored in the public discussion about the Time cover, which has instead focused on unfounded accusations that both breastfeeding and attachment parenting adversely affect child development. In fact, multiple studies have demonstrated that sensitive parenting and secure attachment are major predictors of long-term mental health and well-being, Dr. Eidelman said.
“If there is ‘abuse,’” Dr. Eidelman continued, “it is Time’s inappropriate use of the mother-infant nursing dyad as a come-on for generating reader interest. Ideally, Time Magazine should have featured a photograph of breastfeeding that would have supported the concept of breastfeeding as both the cultural and biological norm. However, by using a staged, provocative picture of an atypical situation, Time chose to generate controversy for commercial ends at the potential expense of well-accepted public health recommendations.”
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a global organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding and human lactation through education, research, and advocacy. An independent, self-sustaining, international physician organization and the only organization of its kind, ABM ‘s mission is to unite members of various medical specialties through physician education, expansion of knowledge in breastfeeding science and human lactation, facilitation of optimal breastfeeding practices, and encouragement of the exchange of information among organizations. It promotes the development and dissemination of clinical practice guidelines. The Academy has prepared clinical protocols for the care of breastfeeding mothers and infants that are available on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) National Guideline Clearinghouse website.
Contact: Karla Shepard Rubinger, Executive Director, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, (914) 740-2100, ex. 2153, [email protected]