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ACOG, AAP Develop First Collaborative Physician-Focused Breastfeeding Handbook

January 25, 2006

Washington, DC -- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) are pleased to announce the publication of the first collaborative breastfeeding guide aimed at physicians. Breastfeeding Handbook for Physicians enhances awareness of the benefits and importance of breastfeeding and increases knowledge of breastfeeding physiology and practice.

"This handbook on breastfeeding and lactation management is directed specifically toward the physician," says ACOG Fellow Sharon B. Mass, MD, one of the book's editors. "It is designed to be an easy reference for clinical use on a day-to-day basis. It is written in a format that addresses management of breastfeeding from preconception through pregnancy and postpartum."

ACOG and AAP recognize breastfeeding as the preferred method of feeding for newborns and infants. Breastfeeding can help protect babies against a number of childhood illnesses, including diarrhea, respiratory infections, some childhood cancers and autoimmune diseases, and obesity. Mothers who breastfeed may lose weight faster and experience less stress during the postpartum period, build stronger bonds with their babies, and have a decreased risk of breast cancer.

Despite the known health benefits to infants, mothers, and society, only 71% of US women ever start breastfeeding. The number of women breastfeeding declines rapidly as the child ages. Only approximately 36% of women provide their babies at least some breastmilk at 6 months; fewer still (17%) are doing any breastfeeding by 12 months. Until about 6 months, breastmilk is the only nutrition that most infants need, and exclusive breastfeeding is ideal.

The US Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2010 campaign sets high goals for breastfeeding, aiming to increase initiation rates to 75% and prolonged breastfeeding rates to 50% and 25% at 6 and 12 months, respectively. "Ob-gyns and pediatricians can have a strong impact on breastfeeding rates," says Richard Schanler, MD, FAAP, senior editor of the handbook. "As leaders of the medical team, both play a role in promoting breastfeeding to their patients. But numerous studies have shown that lack of knowledge and training in lactation issues prevents them from doing so."

According to ACOG and AAP, the handbook will encourage physicians to become champions of breastfeeding and to be able to teach, promote, and support the practice. The handbook covers topics such as:

  • Health benefits of breastfeeding
  • Anatomy and physiology of breastfeeding
  • Management and discussion of breastfeeding during preconception visits
  • Transition to lactation in the hospital, including breastfeeding technique
  • Postpartum issues, including feeding patterns and infant behavior
  • Breastfeeding issues for the infant and for the mother
  • Breastfeeding technology
  • Breastfeeding and contraception
  • Breastfeeding of infants with special needs
  • The creation of a breastfeeding-friendly medical office

The handbook can serve as a guide to teaching breastfeeding and lactation theory and practice to medical students and residents. Other health professionals, including nurses, dieticians, and lactation specialists, also are encouraged to utilize the handbook to achieve coordinated and optimal care. The book includes the latest policy statements on breastfeeding from both ACOG and the AAP.

Information: Order at http://sales.acog.org; 800-762-2264, ext. 192, or http://www.aap.org/bookstore; 888-227-1770

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is the national medical organization representing over 49,000 members who provide health care for women.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.