The American Academy of Pediatrics recently amended its breastfeeding guidelines, stating that it now supports mothers nursing their babies through the first two years of life.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months,” the group said in a statement.
It added, “We support continued breastfeeding after solid foods are introduced as long as you and your baby desire, for two years or beyond.”
The AAP also noted that it wants to be more closely aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO) on this issue, even as confidence in the WHO has waned among some Americans.
Pew Research noted in 2020 that only 46% of Americans gave WHO “positive marks” for the organization’s coronavirus response.
“Our breastfeeding recommendations, updated in the AAP’s ‘Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk’ policy statement and technical report, now more closely align with guidance from the World Health Organization,” the AAP states on its website.
These new guidelines have sparked fierce discussion among moms.
While nursing is the healthy choice for many mothers, still other moms — for a variety of reasons — choose not to breastfeed or can’t.
“My initial reaction is mixed when it comes to these new recommendations,” a mom of a six-month-old baby from Wartrace, Tenn., told Fox News Digital.
“As a mother, you want to provide the best that you can for your child, but as a working mom and member of society in general, breastfeeding is hard,” she also said.
Calling breastfeeding, in her opinion, “a lot more controversial than it should be,” the new mom continued, “Breastfeeding is sometimes sexualized in society, or frowned upon, especially in the South. There’s a modesty issue — and people aren’t really open to seeing moms breastfeed.”
This mom said nursing can also be “isolating.”
She also said a nursing mom is not always welcomed “in the workplace or in public.”
“That’s pressure from both sides of society — it’s a seesaw.”
“I’m grateful that I can nurse, but I also feel trapped,” she added.
“I feel like there’s no alternative options if I were to stop, because of the [current] baby formula shortage. For me, that’s another year-and-a-half of nursing.”
An obstetrician and gynecologist weighed in on the new AAP recommendations as well.
“There are so many important benefits to breastfeeding for both mother and baby,” Dr. Renita White, whose practice is in Atlanta, Georgia, told Fox News Digital in an interview this week.
She noted that she spends time counseling her patients on these benefits.
“It is also important to talk about the realities of breastfeeding and why it may not be for everyone,” she said.
Dr. White said the benefits for the baby of nursing include access to vital antibodies that boost immune system; a decreased risk of infection; and a decreased risk of developing asthma and eczema.
In terms of the breastfeeding mom, the benefits include quicker weight loss after birth plus long-term health benefits such as decreased risks of breast cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes, said White.
Still, nursing is not for every mom.
“It requires a very large demand of time and patience to get comfortable doing it efficiently,” Dr. White said, “and most moms are required to nurse every 2-3 hours in the beginning stages.”
White also pointed out that nursing can be associated with pain and discomfort.
“It is important to discuss the impact nursing may have on a woman’s mental health,” she said.
Sharing that she had her own struggles with breastfeeding as a mom of two, Dr. White said that she had lots of pain, plus difficulty with latching — meaning the baby attaching to the breast. That experience with her firstborn triggered postpartum depression for her.
“Not all moms can afford to [continue] breastfeeding, for one reason or another,” she said.
“The choice to breastfeed is strictly the mother’s choice,” said Renee Rosales, a Flagstaff, Arizona, mom of one and the founder and CEO of Theara, a company dedicated to assisting children with ADD, autism and other neurological differences.
“The mother will decide what’s best for her and her baby,” Rosales told Fox News Digital. “Breastfeeding is certainly not for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine.”
“I personally didn’t exclusively breastfeed,” she continued.
“I went through hours and hours of pumping, and eventually, made the switch to formula for my own sake.”
Rosales noted that there is an intense “amount of pressure from society, pediatricians and other mothers to breastfeed, but said that “breastfeeding is hard, mentally and physically.”
She also noted that the expression “breast is best” — offered by many pediatricians and well-meaning moms — “can be harmful to a new mother’s emotional health,” especially if breastfeeding “isn’t an option at all.”
A lactation consultant from Murfreesboro, Tenn., weighed in on the new AAP recommendations as well.
She called them “not surprising, considering the WHO has foundationally recommended the same.”
Courtney Stallworth, founder and CEO of The Equipt Mama, aims to — as her website states — “provide women of color a clear path for achieving trauma-free births and bonding breastfeeding relationships with their babies without the fear of maternal death or lactation failure.”
“However,” Stallworth continued, “a recommendation is just that. A recommendation.”
“I coach and support my clients to create and achieve a breastfeeding goal that feels best for them, that they choose,” she told Fox News Digital.
“We mamas are the leaders of our bodies, [our babies’] births and [our] breastfeeding relationships with our babies. Period,” she said.
Clare Grayson, a psychologist in Denver, Colorado, told Fox News Digital, “My mother always suffered with hormonal problems and even conceiving was a problem for her.”
She continued, “When I came along, the doctor put her on specific medication to help her get her baby to full term. However, he informed her that there might be [medical] issues post-birth.”
As a result, she said, her mother was not able to lactate.
“I never tasted breast milk as a baby and was instead fed formula throughout my baby years,” she noted.
“And I turned out great!”
A New York mom of two boys told Fox News Digital she had great success with breastfeeding her two children and was able to pump for a long time, beginning when she returned to the office three months after each of the boys’ births.
“I made it work. I was dedicated to it and worked hard to keep it going,” she said.
“When I pumped at work, I dutifully carried that milk back home. My husband and I used that milk to feed our babies that night or the next day.”
She admitted it was hard — but also said she felt it was best for her children and that the decision worked for her.
“I was fortunate to have been able to nurse well and my doctor supported my efforts,” she said. “I’m so glad I did it!”