Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Breastfeeding saves lives

When my daughter's full-term baby was in the NICU due to breathing difficulty, the concern for the condition of necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious bowel problem that especially afflicts premature babies. We discussed how the risks for this problem is almost decreased with early and exclusive breastfeeding - even in premature babies.  Studies are ongoing, but there is definitely a better outcome when breastmilk is the baby's nourishment. We talked about how formula - even one bottle - can disturb the natural pH of the stomach and how it can take two weeks for this to return to the normal, healthier state.  Her response was, "why don't the doctors tell us that?  They always ask as if either choice is fine." and my answer was, "who knows?" because it's common knowledge among medical professionals.  All I can figure is they don't want to upset a mother by telling her what she really should do; rather than what she wants to do.  Doctors also know that breastfeeding affects other body systems, including allergies, eczema and asthma.  My daughter said that if her doctor had told her these things, she would have tried harder with each of her four children to sustain breastfeeding longer.  Read about this here.

My question is why do doctors have trouble with this when they wouldn't hesitate to tell mothers to stop smoking so their babies would be healthier, or to be sure to use a safe carseat?

Of course there are some mothers who truly cannot breastfeed, but these are very rare.  What we need is more help, support, and encouragement along with the facts so moms can make a truly informed decision and then they can be successful.  Formula manufacturers have spent billions of dollars convincing the public that they offer an equal product.  Nobody is funding the promotion of "free" breastmilk.  We rely on word of mouth, health departments (whose funding is very limited), WIC, LaLeche League, Breastfeeding coalitions and health care providers.  I hope we can get more of the latter on board!  Here are some highlights from a Tribune editorial, responding to the recent study published about how important breastfeeding is:

"Some women don't like to hear it, but the truth is that, generally, breast-fed babies are healthier. Not all mothers can or should breast-feed, but the vast majority who can would be doing their infants a favor if they would adopt the practice, for the first months or even years of their child's life.When it comes right down to the nuts and bolts of parenting, breast-feeding is one of the best things a mother can do, and a new study reinforces that well-accepted medical advice. After all, that's really what breasts and breast milk are for...

Government guidelines recommend that mothers feed their babies nothing but breast milk for their first six months. Only 12 percent of American mothers take that advice to heart, but 43 percent breast-feed for at least part of those early months of life...
If doctors, health departments, parenting magazines and other information sources promoted breast-feeding as they should, 90 percent of mothers might make the right choice, saving money and lives."

Click here to read the rest of the article.
Another AP report can be found here.
Favorite quotes from breastfeeding celebs 

Gwyneth Paltrow said "I'm not in my pre-pregnancy state.  I'm trying not to rush myself.  I want my food to be high quality as I'm feeding Apple.  I'm not into dieting.  Now I'm able to exercise, I'm shrinking back down a little bit.  It's a very slow process."
Catherine Zeta-Jones said "I'm going to do it as long as I can, there is something so intimate about it.  For the one hour or 45 minutes it's just wonderful.  It's wonderful bonding and you know they're getting all those antibodies."
Jodie Foster said "I just can't stop losing weight with the breastfeeding.  I ate as much as I possible could, but kept losing.  You'll see why when you meet Charlie."
Nancy O'Dell said "Breastfeeding is the best diet.  I want to eat healthy for her, so it's easy to say no to pizza."
Tory Spelling said "Yes, it's hard, but I love it.  That's our time together, and I can give him the one thing he!  Dean took a photo of me nursing, and I was horrified.  I was thinking this poor baby must be so scared of this giant thing coming at him"

Another blogger's thoughts on this can be found here.

"Babies who are exclusively breastfed seem to have a big advantage. There is not one single study suggesting that formula is better than breast milk." (Ruth Lawrence, MD, University or Rochester professor of pediatrics)
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