Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Breastfeeding benefits? They continue into old age!

Fewer than one in five World Health Organisation (WHO) Member States have passed legislation reflecting the recommendations of the International Code of Marketing for Breast-milk Substitutes (MAIF) – the guidelines that support restrictions on the marketing of infant nutrition products. At the same time as this report is released, the issue of formula vs bottle raises its head in Australia, with a morning ABC news broadcaster referring to “breastfeeding Nazis!”

Then Australia’s Infant Nutrition Council, which represents the manufacturers of infant formula, debates how to respond to the paediatrician who dared to suggest that toddler or the warm and fuzzily titled “growing-up” formula, really had no place in the diet of a child who was now eating solid food. 

It seems to me that far too may women are seduced by whatever opinion suits their particular scenario, and I’ve heard a few opinions that need to be firmly put to bed. 

Most frustrating are the voices that constantly and loudly state that not all women can breastfeed, and that women must be free to choose their particular baby’s poison. The reality is, almost every woman can breastfeed given the right advice, environment and support. Dr. Christina Smillie US Paediatrician whose clinic is dedicated solely to working with mother-infant couples tells us that there are no mentions in the historical literature of breastfeeding problems, but reference only to ‘the baby taking the breast’ or ‘the mother giving the breast’.

Second complete myth is that most women (particularly those in the developing world) are nutrient deficient, but when they use formula they can be assured of total nutritional adequacy. Reality? Breastmilk is always superior to formula which brings me to another key point. "Breastfeeding" as the name for the activity means many women labour under the misapprehension that their milk is just about food and drink. Reality is so much more complex, involves comfort, security, bonding and self-esteem, but also includes oral and facial development, fine motor coordination and stimulation of proprioreceptors and heaps more - and that’s just for the baby! Equally, goodies are bestowed on the mum, latest research suggesting that breastfeeding protects against Alzheimer's.

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