Dr. Kristina Lehman, a pediatrician, has a superior understanding of the evidence surrounding breastfeeding.
She is aware, however, that breastfeeding is difficult and that adhering to evidence-based guidelines is not always an option.
Lehman, who is also a breastfeeding medicine specialist, an internal medicine physician, and an associate professor at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told ABC News, “My breastfeeding relationship makes me more proud than even my [medical degree].” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises mothers should breastfeed their newborns exclusively for the first six months of their child’s life and to continue doing so while supplementing with other foods until the child is two years old.
Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the mother’s risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer, as well as a reduction in infant infections and childhood cancers.
However, according to data provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about a quarter of women adhere to those recommendations. According to experts, this is in part due to the fact that social and medical systems are not designed to encourage breastfeeding.
In a recent editorial published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Seattle physician Dr. Amy Kennedy argued that the unattainable standard for so many may indicate that organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) should consider modifying their recommendations to remove the emphasis on exclusivity regarding breastfeeding and modify the two-year time frame.
As Kennedy stated, “I encourage the AAP and other national health organizations to consider how the public views their statements on exclusive breast-feeding.” Everybody’s journey is different.
However, according to other experts, the best way to bridge the gap is to increase support, not alter the guidelines. On the physician-facing website KevinMD, Lehman and Dr. Dr. April Castillo, an expert in preventive medicine and breastfeeding, responded last week with an article.
They argued that the health care system, including doctors, must provide more assistance to women in making decisions about how to feed their children.
The absence of social help, restricted training for doctors around breastfeeding, and [marketing](https://www.thelancet.com/diaries/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(23)00118-6/fulltexts) from the equation business adds to the pressure, uneasiness and separation during a generally laden time, as indicated by Dr. Anne Eglash, a family medication doctor and leader of the North American Leading body of Breastfeeding and Lactation Medication.
The CDC says that one in eight women experience postpartum depression and anxiety, which can make the process even more difficult.
According to Eglash, who stated to ABC News that “no one is supporting” parents, the current system makes it difficult for parents to actually make a choice between the two.
“Out to run that marathon and there’s a desert and no one’s offering any water,” Eglash said of a situation in which medical professionals advise the general public to breastfeed, However, after that, send new parents “out to run that marathon.”
Castillo told ABC News that there should also be more resources for mixed feeding, which combines formula feeding with breastfeeding.
According to Kennedy, however, meeting the guidelines might not be possible for all parents despite improvements in support.
She claimed to have numerous resources at her disposal and a partner who was supportive, but breastfeeding was challenging for her. She claimed that she was unable to breastfeed exclusively for six months, much less for two years.
However, regardless of how they travel the journey, all experts concurred that those feeding infants require compassion.
“I believe that many women believe that it is all or nothing. Therefore, rather than resigning, they completely give up when they attempt everything and find it to be too difficult. But in order to respond to the inquiry, “What are your goals? you need individualized support in this area. Lehman declared: Because it’s a conversation, it needs to be unique.”
Eglash said that the problem is not the goals; rather, the system needs to change in order to help people have the best experience possible.
“I think the most important thing is that we all want to feed our babies, right? Additionally, we want parents to be able to feed their children the way they want to,” Eglash stated.
Danielle Craigg, MD, is a senior resident in general preventive medicine and public health at Stony Brook University’s Renaissance School of Medicine and a member of the ABC News Medical Unit.