CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued new breastfeeding recommendations, which include continuing to breastfeed a child, if possible, until they’re at least two years old.

“They have always recommended breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months. It’s just the duration now that has changed, and that guideline really aligns with what the World Health Organization and UNICEF had always recommended,” explained Heidi Szugye, MD, Medical Director of Breastfeeding Medicine Clinic and Center for Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

Dr. Szugye said the recommendations were made to ensure moms who do choose to breastfeed beyond a year don’t feel ashamed, judged or alienated.

She also notes there are many health benefits to continued breastfeeding.

For example, breast milk can help reduce maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. It can also help protect against ear infections, respiratory infections, different GI illnesses and autoimmune diseases.

As for the mother, Dr. Szugye said breastfeeding has been linked to a decreased risk for type two diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and breast cancer.

The updated guidelines also call for more support for moms to help them meet these new recommendations.

“The policy is really more a call to action to everyone and that includes hospitals. And so we want to make sure that our practices and policies are set up to support moms that choose to breastfeed.”

Dr. Szugye knows not everyone is able to breastfeed. These parents deserve support as well, since they may feel guilty or even go through a grieving period.