Breast or bottle? Deciding how to feed your baby can be difficult.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of life. When the baby starts eating solid foods, mothers should keep breastfeeding and refrain from giving the baby formula. Breastfeeding should continue until the child is at least 1 year of age, and the mother and infant are both ready to stop.

Extensive research indicates that breastfeeding helps protect babies from many medical conditions, including respiratory tract infections, middle ear infections, asthma, atopic dermatitis, gastroenteritis, obesity, diabetes, leukemia, celiac disease and sudden infant death syndrome.

Many breastfeeding mothers worry they are not producing enough milk and should give their baby formula. Pediatricians point out that breastfed infants need less milk at each feeding than formula-fed infants, although they need to be fed more often. Breastfeeding helps to stimulate milk production, which can be more difficult when formula is used as a supplement.

Mothers also have the misconception that breastfeeding is going to hurt or that it is going to be difficult. They should seek help from a hospital or pediatrician to ensure breastfeeding is being done properly and, therefore, is pain free.

Returning to work can be challenging. Pediatricians encourage mothers to work with their employers to establish an area and time that breast pumping can be done during the day. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently created “The Business Case for Breastfeeding” (, which provides information on the economic benefits of allowing mothers to pump at work and a tool kit to help companies develop a program to help breastfeeding moms.

The AAP Healthy Children website offers breastfeeding resources for moms at

© 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics. This Parent Plus may be freely copied and distributed with proper attribution.