WASHINGTON (Reuters) - America's chief doctor called on Americans to support breast-feeding on Thursday and outlined guidelines for mothers and communities to support that most natural nutrition system.
Studies have shown numerous benefits for babies, mothers and overall healthcare when newborns are breast-fed for the recommended minimum of six months.
Surgeon General Regina Benjamin issued a report on Thursday advocating mothers breast-feed their children.
"Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breast-feed," Benjamin said in a statement accompanying the report.
"They shouldn't have to go it alone. Whether you're a clinician, a family member, a friend, or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breast-feed."
Breast-feeding develops immunity in babies and protects them from illnesses like diarrhea, ear infection and pneumonia, according to the report.
Some studies have linked breast-feeding to higher IQs.
Despite the reported benefits of breast-feeding, some women find that with busy schedules, social stigma, and lack of know-how, consistent breast-feeding is difficult to manage.
Although 75 percent of babies start out being breast-fed, just over 1 of 10 are breast-fed exclusively for six months.
The Surgeon General's call seeks to combat those problems by expanding and improving community programs that provide support and peer counseling, and ensuring employers and health care centers to provide similar support.
The American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed the surgeon general's campaign.
"The Call to Action provides a road map for creating a clear path for all mothers to breast-feed as long as they can and wish to do so," the children's healthcare organization said in a statement.
(Reporting by Wendell Marsh; Editing by Jerry Norton)