The Main Stream

May 12, 2012 7:48 PM

Forget Time magazine cover; real issue in breast-feeding is too many stop before

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Time magazine cover photo of a mom breast-feeding her 3-year-old son has been generating a lot of debate. But health experts say the real issue is that too few babies that could benefit from a mother's breast milk are getting it.

About 44 percent of U.S. moms do at least some breast-feeding for the first six months of their baby's life.

But only 15 percent follow advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics that babies receive breast milk alone for those six months, and fewer still stick with breast-feeding for a year, which is also what the academy recommends.

By 2020, the nation's health goals call for more than a quarter of babies to be exclusively breast-fed through their first six months of life, and for more than a third to still be nursing when they turn a year old.

Health experts say breast-fed babies suffer fewer illnesses and have a lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Still, there are mothers who can't breast feed or choose not to. And the U.S. surgeon general says they shouldn't be made to feel guilty.

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