BREASTFEEDING – Its importance for Mother and Child
by Lynn Hinderliter CN, LDN

breastfeedingThank goodness we are emerging from the darkest of the dark ages on this subject now, but even so it seems to me that some young mothers are still not adequately informed about the benefits of feeding their baby the way nature intended. In the alternative health field, one of the saddest things we see is the steady stream of babies and young children who are not enjoying the glowing health that is natural at that age. They have asthma, and ear infections, and allergies, and behavioral problems, to name but a few. breastfeeding

Even by the year 2000, when breastfeeding was once again subtly on the increase:

  • Only 64% of US women even attempted to breastfeed their babies

  • At 6 months, a mere 29% were still breast-feeding

  • Rates were especially low among poor women, and among African Americans (only 19% still breast-feeding at 6 months)

It is strange to look back and try to determine how women were dissuaded from doing something so uniquely feminine, and so uniquely motherly: nothing else can bring about the same level of bonding between mother and infant as the act of breast-feeding, and nothing else reinforces a woman’s sense of being an irreplaceable mother as much as having this tiny creature dependent on her for its very life. While I have come across many women who regret that they didn’t breast feed, I have never come across a woman who was sorry she did! These, however, are emotional arguments, and nowadays we have far more impressive facts to support this decision.breastfeeding

In 2007, Nestle made it known that they will market a formula with breast milk oligosaccharides.  Immediately, those Mothers who are less than dedicated to the concept of breast-feeding their babies are asking for “the formula like breast milk”.  While it is obviously good that available formulas should be the best possible, it is also impossible for them to be the same as breast milk.  Here is an excellent analysis of the situation, at  The MotherWear breastfeeding blog (http://breastfeeding.blog.motherwear.com/2007/01/using_human_mil.html).

I have come across some rather specious suggestions that because of the chemicals in the environment, breast-feeding may be a danger for the baby.  Here is an article posted at the Canadian Women’s Network (http://www.cwhn.ca/network-reseau/7-1/7-1pg2.html), which addresses that question very thoroughly. breastfeeding

If an animal is orphaned, it can often thrive on the milk of another species: but almost all animals are full grown by the time they are one or two years old. The level and kind of proteins required to bring about this rapid growth are unprecedented in food sources. Human beings, on the other hand, do not reach maturity for 18 to 20 years, and therefore the food they require in infancy is far different. Equally, we know from hard experience that, formulate infant foods as we may, new research is always turning up proving that some new nutrient essential to the health of baby  (naturally already present in mother’s milk) needs to be added to infant formulas.  breastfeeding

The use of soy for infant formulas is truly questionable:  we have always known of the possibility of allergies, but now there is also the fear that the isoflavones in the soy may affect hormonal development in children. breastfeeding

As a side note to that, I recall when I first arrived in the United States (I am British by birth) being amazed at the number of children wearing glasses. Even now, many more children here, and ever younger ones, seem to be prescribed glasses than overseas. I realize to a certain extent there may be other factors at play, but recently formula manufacturers came to the conclusion they should probably put DHA (all together, now: naturally present in breast milk) in their formulas – and guess what? This is a nutrient essential for the healthy development of the eye. There are also figures coming out that suggest breast fed babies have higher intelligence levels than formula fed – and DHA is also necessary for mental function. Formula- faint but pursuing yet again! breastfeeding

DHA is one of the two “featured” fatty acids in Fish Oil, and it seems that being low in these oils is not only harmful to the baby in the ways mentioned above, but also cause an increase in pre-term births. (BMJ 2002;324:447-450) Analysis showed that among women who never ate fish the occurrence of preterm delivery was 7.1%, while for women who ate fish at least once a week the occurrence of preterm delivery was only 1.9%. breastfeeding

Studies published in 2004 make a connection between eating oily fish during pregnancy, and lower rates of asthma (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/index.php?newsid=8689). This would tend to suggest a protective effect from EPA and DHA.  Fish STICKS, on the other hand, fried in Omega 6 oils, had a negative effect, causing MORE asthma in the children. breastfeeding

An infant’s digestive system is unable to handle with complete success, anything but the one substance it was designed to receive. Anything else, the body does not process correctly, and the immature system is damaged, some would say permanently. The most unfortunate result is that large protein molecules from the unacceptable diet, which the child cannot break down properly, penetrate the gut and are challenged as enemies by the body. Many of the current childhood problems can be traced without any question to so-called leaky-gut syndrome, and the allergies/food intolerances which result. It is unfortunate, but all too often these childhood problems are treated with antibiotics, further damaging the development of a proper digestive system by killing the friendly bacteria needed to absorb many nutrients, and before a desperate mother knows what’s happening she is off on an unending round of doctor’s visit after visit. breastfeeding

For many mothers it is too late now to go back and change the past: but if your child fits the health pattern described above, you can help by determining whether an allergy is at the bottom of the problem, replacing the probiotics needed for digestive health, and sometimes also by using a mild digestive enzyme to help the body’s natural process. I would also consider using a Colostrum supplement, particularly if immune failures, such as recurrent ear infections, are a problem.  If you are pregnant at the moment, strongly consider nursing your child: the benefits do not end with the baby’s health; you will return to your pre-pregnancy weight faster, many women say their breasts stay more shapely, and there are some studies which suggest long-term protection against cancer of the breast for mothers who nurse their baby’s first year. La Leche League, listed in most local phone books, is invaluable for both advice and support. breastfeeding

I am appending a recent study which gives yet another good reason to breast feed: breastfeeding

WESTPORT, CT (Reuters Health) Nov 20 – Results of a study of more than 5000 Brazilian schoolchildren indicate that many breastfed children are less likely thanothers to have asthma or wheezing disorders. breastfeeding

Reporting in the October issue of the Journal of Asthma, Dr. Isabelle Romieu, of the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica, Morelos, Mexico, and colleagues elsewhere note that they sought to examine the association between breastfeeding and chronic respiratory disorders in children.

The researchers examined questionnaires completed by 5182 Brazilian schoolchildren (ages 7 to 14) and their parents. Of these, 4.6% reported medically diagnosed asthma and 11.9% reported current wheeze. breastfeeding

A total of 90% of the children had been breastfed, and after adjusting for confounders, the researchers found that children who had not been breastfed were 1.51 times more likely to have an asthma diagnosis, 1.29 times more likely to experience current wheeze and 1.51 times more likely to have wheeze after exercise than those who had been breastfed for at least six months. breastfeeding

However, this protective effect was observed “only among children with no family history of asthma,” and, say the investigators, “we did not observe a dose-response relationship with duration of breastfeeding.”

The researchers call for further studies, but the low prevalence of asthma and wheezing seen in the studied population, they conclude, “may be partly related to the high level of breastfeeding.”

J Asthma 2000;37:575-583. 

Find the recommended supplements here

La Leche League International at http://www.lalecheleague.org/

A website to help clothe Preemies born ill or in need http://danettesangels.tripod.com/home.html

 How to make your own baby formulas, or improve the commercial ones. http://www.mercola.com/2000/oct/22/infant_formula.htm

The American Dietetic Association’s position paper on breast-feeding.  http://www.adajournal.org/scripts/om.dll/serve?action=searchDB&searchDBfor=art&artType=full&id=as0002822305003299

Dispelling some common myths about Breastfeeding  http://www.health24.com/child/Breastfeeding/833-850,13598.asp

Breastfeeding.com