After reviewing the evidence, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concluded that primary care providers can increase breastfeeding rates and duration by encouraging and supporting breastfeeding. The USPSTF recommends primary care interventions before, around, and after childbirth to advocate and support breastfeeding. The recommendation appears in the October 21, 2008, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, the American College of Physicians’ flagship journal.
For the study, the Task Force evaluated more than 25 randomized trials of breastfeeding interventions conducted in the United States and in developed countries around the world. The Task Force concluded that coordinated interventions throughout pregnancy birth, and infancy can increase breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity. The intervention emphasized primary care provider assistance with initiating and maintaining breastfeeding and lactation and postnatal breastfeeding support.
Breastfeeding has substantial health benefits to babies and their mothers. Babies who are breastfed have fewer infections and allergic skin rashes than formula-fed babies and also are less likely to have sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). After breastfeeding ends, children who were breastfed are less likely to develop asthma, diabetes, obesity, and childhood leukemia. Women who breastfeed have a lower risk for type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer than women who have never breastfed.
In 2005, 73 percent of new mothers initiated breastfeeding, nearly reaching the U.S. Healthy People 2010 goal of 75 percent. However, only 14 percent of infants were exclusively breastfed for their first six months, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the U.S. Surgeon General.