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Our Position on Breast Feeding

This is a page of recent studies showing the relationship
between breast feeding and physical & emotional health.

If you are considering bottle-feeding your infant -- please read the following, and for the sake of your child, choose to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of his or her life.


Bottle Feeding and Pneumonia

"Impact of Breast Feeding on Admission for Pneumonia During Postneonatal Period in Brazil: a Nested Case-Control Study"
by J. Cesar
in the May 15, 1999 issue of the British Medical Journal

"Infants who are not being breast fed were 17 times more likely than those being breast fed without forumla milk to be admitted to hospital for pneumonia" (BMJ 318:1316). For infants under 3 months old, the study showed the risk was 61 times greater. Exclusive breast feeding was necessary for maximum protection. Children who received both mother's and forumla milk had four times greater risk than those who received breast milk alone.

John McDougall, M.D., comments:

"...formula fed babies have more disease and poorer
psychological development than normal babies..."
"It is time that doctors, and everyone else, accepted
breast feeding as the biologic norm..."

The two quotes above come from authors of an editorial accompanying this study (BMJ 318:1303, 1999). Exclusive breast feeding -- meaning no formula, water, or solid foods -- provides optimal nutrition for the first six months of an infant's life. Breast milk has anti-infective properties, not found in forumla, including white blood cells, antibodies, and hormones that fight against pneumonia causing bacteria, as well as all other bacteria, viruses, and yeast that threaten a child's health and life. Recently, HIV infection of the mother has been raised as a reason to bottle feed. However, the risk from other diseases, especially in developing countries, where HIV is epidemic, is so great that the mothers should still breast feed.

Drug companies are selling death and disease all over the world with their promotion of formula feeding. In an ideal world, the only way a mother could get formula would be with a doctor's prescription. And hopefully, that doctor would be fully aware that he is giving out a drug that will increase the risk of pneumonia, as well as many other infectious diseases, crib death, and a future of degenerative diseases in adulthood. A drug that also results in a lower IQ, as well as poorer speech and psychological development. (See the McDougall Program for Women, Chatper 4, for further information.)

Breast-feeding cuts risk of childhood obesity, study finds


LONDON (July 16, 1999 2:04 a.m. EDT -
Babies are less likely to grow into fat children if they are fed breast milk exclusively, a new study shows. The findings provide powerful ammunition for the campaign to encourage mothers to choose the breast over the bottle.

German scientists say their findings, which were published Friday in the British Medical Journal, are the result of the largest study to date investigating the link between breast-feeding and obesity later in life.

The findings suggest breast-feeding could turn out to be a powerful strategy for fighting the spiraling level of childhood obesity, said doctor Robert H. Eckel, chairman of the American Heart Association's nutrition committee, who was not connected with the study.

"This is one of the highest impact studies I've seen in obesity research in the last year," he said.

The study, which tracked 9,357 children in Bavaria, found that the longer babies were breast-fed exclusively before being switched to formula or food, the lower their chances of starting school as overweight children.

About 60 percent of mothers breast-feed in industrialized countries, but most give up by the time their babies are 2 months old.

The German study found that infants given only breast milk until they were 3 to 5 months old were more than a third less likely to be obese by the age of 5 or 6 than babies given only formula from the start.

Those breast-fed exclusively for 6 months to a year fared even better - they were 43 percent less likely to be obese, the study found.

Breast-feeding beyond a child's first birthday was better still, giving babies a 72 percent lower chance of turning out to be obese children, the researchers said.

Even just some breast milk proved to be better than none, according to the study. Children who were breast-fed for only the first month or two of their lives were 10 percent less likely to be obese by the time they entered elementary school.

Besides being more likely to be obese, bottle-fed children also had a greater chance of being simply overweight by elementary school, the study said. As with obesity, the risk diminished the longer breast-feeding continued into childhood.

Children were classed as overweight if their body mass index - which allows comparison of the girth of people of different heights - was in the highest 10 percent of all children their age and sex in Bavaria. They were labeled obese if they were in the highest 3 percent.

The researchers took into account several factors that could have skewed the results, such as eating habits, socioeconomic class, birth weight, parents' and siblings' ages, how long the children played outside and whether they had their own bedrooms.

In fact, the fatter children were eating less butter, fewer desserts and whole-milk products, and more low-fat dairy foods - probably in an attempt to lose weight.

The study was overseen by doctor Rudiger von Kries, a professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Ludwig Maximillians University in Munich.

What is not clear from the study, von Kries conceded, is how much of the children's weight problem was due to an inherited tendency to be fat.

Eckel, the American Heart Association expert, noted that genetics might be responsible for a small percentage of the cases, but could not be the total explanation since von Kries studied so many children.

Von Kries said early analysis of a follow-up study he is conducting that takes into account parents' weight suggests a genetic disadvantage doesn't seem to make much difference.

But is it something in the breast milk, or something associated with the act of breast-feeding that makes a difference?

"We still don't know that, but in the end, I'd be surprised if it wasn't to do with the composition of breast milk," von Kries said.

Eckel noted that part of the phenomenon could be due to bottle-fed babies being "overfed" as mothers try to make children finish each bottle.

Eckel said trying to ward off obesity as early as infancy is important because of the alarming incidence of obesity-related adult diseases now being seen in children, such as adult-onset diabetes.

Weight gain in adolescence, however, is actually a better indicator than childhood obesity of whether someone is more likely to be obese as an adult, he said.

Studies showing milk causes Insulin-Dependent
Diabetes in Susceptible Children

Breast-fed infants half the risk for developing diabetes:

Mayer E. Reduced risk of IDDM among breast-fed children. The Colorado IDDM
Registry. Diabetes 37:1625, 1988.

The longer an infant is breast-fed the lower its risk of diabetes:

Scott F. Cow milk and insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus: is there a
relationship? Am J Clin Nutr 51:489, 1990.

Virtanen S. Infant feeding in Finnish children less than 7 yr of age with
newly diagnosed IDDM. Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diabetes
Care 14:415, 1991.

Insulin-dependent diabetes is caused by cow's milk fed to susceptible young

Fava D. Relationship between dairy product consumption and incidence of
IDDM in childhood in Italy. Diabetes Care 17:1488, 1994.

Work Group on Cow's Milk Protein and Diabetes Mellitus. Infant feeding
practices and their possible relationship to the etiology of diabetes
mellitus. Pediatrics 94:752, 1994.

Cavallo M. Cell-mediated immune response to B casein in recent-onset
insulin-dependent diabetes: implications for disease pathogenesis. Lancet
348:926, 1996.

Karjalainen J. A bovine albumin peptide as a possible trigger of
insulin-dependent diabetes. N Engl J Med 327:302, 1992.

Researchers link cows' milk to juvenile diabetes and MS

Wednesday, March 21, 2001

Drinking cows' milk may be a risk factor for multiple sclerosis as well
as juvenile diabetes, two diseases Canadian researchers have
discovered are remarkably similar.

The link with milk is more established in diabetes and still tenuous in
multiple sclerosis. Dr. Michael Dosch, senior scientist at the Hospital
for Sick Children in Toronto, said he and other researchers suspect
that infants who are genetically predisposed to diabetes are at greater
risk of getting the disease if they are given formula -- which is usually
based on cows' milk -- before they are three months old.

The researchers don't know at what age drinking cows' milk may have
an impact on multiple sclerosis. All they know is that both MS patients
and diabetics in recent tests shared an abnormal immune-system
response to cows' milk.

"We really have to do more studies and see where this leads us," said
Dr. Dosch, head of the research team.

Both he and Dr. Paul O'Connor, head of the MS clinic at St. Michael's
Hospital in Toronto and a member of the research team, caution that
the evidence is not yet solid enough for people to stop drinking milk or
giving their baby formula based on their research.

But if their findings are confirmed in other studies, it may be possible to
design a diet that could influence the course of MS and diabetes. In
both diseases, scientists believe there are long, silent years while an
overactive immune system is running amok, doing damage, before any
symptoms appear.

"We were shocked to find that in a test tube, you can barely tell the
two diseases apart," Dr. Dosch said.

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system -- the brain
and spinal chord -- which can leave patients using a wheelchair.
Diabetes affects the pancreas. Patients are unable to regulate blood
levels of glucose, a sugar our cells need for energy. Without insulin,
diabetics can lapse into a coma or die.

Both are autoimmune diseases, which means they happen because the
body's immune system attacks its own tissue, and both have a genetic
component as well as environmental risk factors.

Dr. Dosch and his colleagues are about to embark on an international
trial to see if early intervention can prevent the onset of juvenile

Studies in mice have shown there are some types of cow's-milk-based
infant formulas that protect against the disease and others that damage
the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. The clinical trial will test
the various formulas to see if the same effect is seen in humans.

They are also planning a separate study of MS patients to see if there is
a predisease phase during which intervention might work. In MS, the
immune system destroys the protective lining around nerve cells. The
idea would be to prevent damage before it becomes too serious.

The researchers discovered that in both diseases, T-cells, the big guns
of our immune system, run amok attacking healthy tissue. Not only that,
but in the lab, the T-cells from diabetics will attack central nervous
system proteins, and the T-cells from MS patients will go after
pancreatic proteins.

"We found that both tissues are targeted in each disease," Dr. Dosch

They also found that the diabetic mice can very easily be manipulated
to contract multiple sclerosis. This gives researchers a reliable animal
model to test out their theories, a big step forward in the fight against

It is estimated that about 30 in 100,000 Canadians get juvenile
diabetes every year, while five in 100,000 get MS each year.

Breast-feeding helps make kids smarter

CHICAGO 07/08/99 - A new study suggests that youngsters who were breast-fed
as babies do better in school and score higher on standardized math and
reading tests.

The study, which tracked more than 1,000 New Zealand children through
age 18, bolsters evidence that breast-feeding helps make smarter kids. It
appears in January's Pediatrics, the journal of the suburban
Chicago-based American Academy of Pediatrics.

The authors, Professors David M. Fergusson and L. John Horwood of
Christchurch School of Medicine, subscribe to the theory that fatty acids
that are present in breast milk but not in formula promote lasting brain

The breast-fed children in the study tended to have mothers who were
older, better-educated and wealthier. Skeptics say those factors rather
than the breast milk itself could explain the findings.

But the authors wrote that they adjusted for those factors and still
concluded: "There were small but consistent tendencies for increasing
duration of breast-feeding to be associated with increased IQ, increased
performance on standardized tests, higher teacher ratings of classroom
performance and better high school achievement."

Those who were breast-fed for less than four months scored slightly higher
from ages 8 to 13 on standardized tests. The differences increased the
longer children breast-fed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics just last month urged mothers to
nurse longer - for at least one year, instead of the recommended six
months - for numerous reasons, including the presumed mental benefits.

Dr. Lawrence Gartner of the University of Chicago, the chairman of the
group that drew up the new guidelines, said the New Zealand study
generally supports current thinking about breast-feeding.

Still, he noted, it's difficult for a study to account for all the social and
educational variables that could also explain the findings.

Dr. Ruth Lawrence, a University of Rochester neonatologist, called the
study "an important addition." She noted that when she began her training
in the 1950s, breast-feeding was more common among low-income,
less-educated women.

Now, "the well-educated woman has moved back to realizing that Mother
Nature does it best," she said.

Breast-feeding benefit linked to nutrition Study: Maternal bonding may play lesser role in IQ boosts

Sept. 22, 1999 — At least 60 percent of the average intelligence gain seen in breast-fed infants comes from breast milk’s nutritional value, rather than benefits from maternal bonding, according to a study released Wednesday.

The Survey by University of Kentucky nutrition ist James Anderson looked at 20 different studies comparing the brain development of infants who had been breast-fed with that of infants who had been given formula.

 “Our study confirms that breast-feeding is accompanied by about a five-points higher IQ than in bottle-fed infant s,” Anderson said.

Within that increase, Anderson said, he and his associates were able to separate the benefits from mother-infant bonding from the purely nutritional benefits of human milk.

“Our best estimates are that maternal bonding and the decision to breast-feed account for about 40 percent of that increase, but that 60 percent — 3.2 points — are related to the actual nutritional value of the breast milk,” he said.

Anderson’s study is being published in the October edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

An accompanying editorial by Ricardo Uauy and Patricia Peirano cautions that none of the studies examined by Anderson were randomized, meaning they may not sufficiently account for the fact that breast-feeding mothers tend to be wealthier, better-educated and more concerned about infant development.

According to Anderson’s study, intellige nce is benefited by breast-feeding for up to six months. Children who are breast-fed for less than eight weeks show no IQ benefit, Anderson said.

The study was partially funded by Martek Biosciences Corp., a Winchester-based company that manufactures plant versions of two fatty acids found in breast milk, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachidonic acid (AA).

Anderson, who subscribes to the theory that DHA and AA promote lasting brain development, said he sought funding from Martek.

Martek has a strong interest in seeing DHA and AA approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use as a supplement in U.S.-made infant formula. Formulas sold in 60 countries contain DHA an d AA but they are not approved for use here.

Anderson said his pregnant daughter is taking a daily supplement of DHA at his urging. If she were unable to breast-feed, he said, “I personally would recommend she give DHA to her infant.”

A scientist who has studied DHA and an infant formula maker cautioned that studies have not shown a clear link between DHA consumption and increased IQ.

“I think people deserve to understand that while breast-feeding has been linked to cognitive functions, DHA has mainly been linked to effects which are not cognitive, like (increased) attention and other behavioral effects,”said Susan Carlson, a professor in the school of nursing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.        

Susan Finn, nutrition director at Ross Products, the Columbus, Ohio-based maker of Similac infant formula, said the company’s studies have not shown a benefit to adding DHA and AA to infant formula.

 Friday September 24 1:15 PM ET

Non-breast milk in infancy increases asthma risk

NEW YORK, Sep 24 (Reuters Health) -- Introducing milk other than breast milk to infants younger than 4 months old increases the risk of asthma and atopy (a predisposition to certain allergies), according to a report.

``Public health interventions promoting an increased duration of exclusive breastfeeding may help to reduce... childhood asthma,'' Dr. Wendy Oddy and colleagues from the Institute for Child Health Research in West Perth, Australia, write in the September 25th issue of the British Medical Journal.

In the first study of its kind, the investigators followed 2,187 children from before birth through their 6th birthday, questioning their parents regarding various manifestations of asthma and allergy.

Children who were fed milk other than breast milk before 4 months of age experienced higher rates of all indicators of asthma and allergy, the report indicates. Such children were 25% more likely to be diagnosed with allergy and 30% more likely to have a positive skin test for allergies than were children who received only breast milk during their early months.

The total duration of exclusive breastfeeding was less important, though longer breastfeeding was associated with less asthma and allergy, the authors note.

Because the introduction of non-breast milk was more closely associated with asthma and atopy than the duration of breastfeeding, the investigators postulate that the exclusion of potentially allergy-causing components in milk other than breast milk may account for the protective effect.

The researchers also found increased risks of asthma and atopy among boys, infants born prematurely, and children living in households where smoking took place. Children who attended daycare before the age of 3 months were half as likely to develop asthma as others.

``Delaying the introduction of milk other than breast milk until at least 4 months of age may protect against asthma and atopy later in childhood,'' the investigators conclude.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal 1999;319:815-819.

New study suggests breast feeding
protects against leukemia

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Breast-fed infants may have up to a 21 percent lower risk of developing some forms of childhood leukemia when compared to babies who are bottle-fed, according to a new study.

The findings, to be published Wednesday in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, differ from some earlier, smaller studies that found no statistically significant support for the idea that breast feeding protected against leukemia.

The new study, by researchers at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center, found that the longer babies were breast-fed, the more they were protected.

For babies breast-fed for at least one month, the leukemia risk was reduced by 21 percent, while the risk was reduced by up to 30 percent for infants breast-fed for six months or longer, the study found.

The conclusions are based on interviews with 2,200 mothers whose children had been diagnosed with acute leukemia. Matching interviews were conducted with mothers of other children of similar age, race and geographic location.

"We have long known of breast feeding's health benefits in terms of protecting children from infection," said Dr. Les Robison, the principal researcher in the University of Minnesota study. "Now we have evidence to suggest its immune-stimulating effects may provide another significant advantage -- protection against cancer."

Robison acknowledged in a statement that further studies are needed before the conclusions can be confirmed.

His study in JNCI noted that "other large and more detailed investigations" are needed "to eliminate the possibility that the findings are due to potential forms of bias or chance."

It also noted that a 1988 German study involving 1,000 leukemia cases and a Dutch study this year involving 492 cases found that breast feeding for six months gave a "nonsignificantly reduced risk of leukemia."

The American Academy of Pediatrics has long recommended breast feeding as way of protecting infants from infection because breast milk contains substances that combat disease. A recent study also suggested that the nutrition in breast milk can increase the IQ of babies by about five percent.

Breast-fed babies have lower risk of heart disease

NEW YORK, Mar 29, 2000 (Reuters Health) -- Conventional wisdom holds that breast-fed babies are less likely than formula-fed infants to develop infections or allergies in childhood. Now from British and Dutch researchers, comes word that breast-fed babies also tend to be healthier adults. That's the conclusion of a study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

``Exclusive breastfeeding seems to have a protective effect against some risk factors for cardiovascular disease in later life,'' according to Dr. J.H.P. van der Meulen of Southampton General Hospital in the UK, and colleagues there and at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

The investigators studied a group of 625 adults born in Amsterdam between 1943 and 1946, during the Dutch famine. Blood samples were obtained from these men and women in 1995 - 1996, when they were between 48 and 53 years old.

Most study participants (83%) had been exclusively breast-fed during their hospital stay at birth, (at least 10 days) with the remainder being partially or completely bottle-fed with cow's milk or buttermilk.

The researchers report that compared with the breast-fed babies, the group who had been at least partially bottle-fed showed impaired insulin functioning. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that functions in many capacities including protein formation and sugar metabolism. When insulin function is disturbed, diabetes and other problems may result.

The bottle-fed group also had less-than-satisfactory levels of cholesterol, indicating an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

The two groups did not differ in measures of blood pressure or body mass and findings were similar for men and women.

The investigators concede that they did not have information about how the infants were fed after their hospital stay, but point out that other data suggest most women continued to breastfeed their children for at least a few months.

The authors note that ``bottle-fed babies have a different hormonal response'' compared with breast-fed babies, particularly in insulin response. The team also suggests that the fat content in breast milk may help protect against overfeeding and point to animal studies indicating that growth factors and other hormones contained in breast milk may affect the metabolism of cholesterol and related fatty substances in the body.

Interestingly, feeding method did not seem to influence the likelihood of later high blood pressure or obesity. Apparently, the researchers explain, early nutrition does not seem to play a role in the development of these conditions.

``Our results support the hypothesis that the method of infant feeding is an important determinant of health in adult life,'' van der Meulen and colleagues conclude. ``Because of the potential importance for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, it is important that the research in the area of infant nutrition should also focus on biological effects in later life.'' SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood 2000;82:248-252. 

Breast-Feeding Seen Best For Low Birth Weight Babies

A new study shows that babies born small at birth, if exclusively breast-fed, had
significantly better chances for catch-up growth compared to small infants given
other fluids or foods during the first six months.

The report, by scientists from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health,
appears in the March 2001 issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Their study was conducted in Bangladesh.

The study also found that the differences in weight and length between
low-birth-weight infants and their heavier peers remained the same throughout
the first year of life. This is in contrast to babies born in more developed
countries, where pre-term and small infants usually grow faster and eventually
catch up to their heavier peers later in life.

Said senior author Abdullah Baqui, associate professor, International Health,
Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, "Infants born in the slums of Dhaka
appear to be confined within 'growth channels' determined at birth, so that bigger
babies grew ever bigger relative to their smaller peers."

Although shorter babies did appear to make up some of their shortfall in the first
six months, the taller babies grew relatively even taller in the second six months
of life.

The researchers observed a group of infants born in Dhaka from birth until age
12 months during 1993-1995. Each baby's weight and length were measured at
enrollment and again during follow-up visits carried out at ages 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12

Information was also collected on feeding and illness since birth. Almost half of
the newborns (46.4 percent) were low-birth-weight (under 2,500 grams).
Pre-term deliveries accounted for 17 percent of all infants, and almost 70
percent of the samples were small for gestational age. A little more than half of
the infants were exclusively breast-fed at one month of age, a figure that
declined to about a quarter of the infants by three months.

All other factors remaining constant, infants who were exclusively breast-fed in
the first three months were on average about 95 grams heavier and 0.5
centimeters taller at 12 months than those partially or not breast-fed.

In addition, the study showed that foods and fluids other than breast milk, if given
before age six months, had an independent negative effect on the weight and
length an infant will attain.

"This," said Dr. Baqui, "further strengthens the argument that complementary
foods before six months of life are not necessary and are frequently detrimental."

The investigators also studied the effects of illness on growth. Diarrhea
negatively affected both weight and length significantly in both newborns and
those past six months of age. Acute respiratory infection had a significant
negative association with weight but not length, and the size of this effect was
larger in the older infants.

The authors emphasize that a better understanding of the role of nutritional
status at birth in infant growth could help policymakers in developing countries to
forge appropriate decisions about health programs.

The scientists said that breastfeeding's sustained effect on growth and its even
more beneficial effect in lighter infants were compelling reasons for promoting
exclusive breast-feeding in early infancy. They hope their results will provide
renewed impetus to the efforts for the promotion of breast-feeding, especially
exclusive breast-feeding in the first six months of life.

Support for this study was provided by the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID), the Center for Health and Population Research at the
Johns Hopkins University and the Royal Netherlands Government.

[Contact: Tim Parsons, Ming Tai]


UM Health System Touts Advantages Of Breast-Feeding

About 85 percent of new mothers who give birth at the University of Michigan
Health System initiate breast-feeding before leaving the hospital and then
continue to breast-feed, on average, for the first six months.

Now doctors at the UMHS are encouraging mothers to breast-feed their
newborns through their first year of life, not only based on its initial health
benefits to the child, but also due to the long-term impact it can have, including
an increase in a child's cognitive development -- and a reduced risk for breast
and perhaps uterine cancer in a mother, says Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., director
of the Division of General Pediatrics in the Department of Pediatric and
Communicable Disease at the UMHS.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family
Physicians recommends that children receive breast milk for the first year of life.
Breast-fed newborns tend to have a lower incidence of ear infections, respiratory
infections, gastroenteritis, diarrheal illness, and a lower rate of hospitalization
than children who are formula fed.

"We know in the first year of life, there's a tremendous protection against many
infectious diseases," says Freed. "However, there's likely to be benefits that last
20, 30, or even 40 years because we know that organ development in infants
has a big impact on how those organs function later in life."

Although it can be difficult to separate environmental and social influences from
a child's cognitive development, there have been several recent and controlled
studies demonstrating breast milk's long-term benefits. The studies, Freed says,
have shown that breastfed children on average have a slightly higher I.Q. than
formula-fed children.

But beyond its benefits to a child, breast-feeding can have a significant impact
on a mother's health. Nursing mothers burn 500 more calories a day than
women who are not pregnant or nursing, which works to speed up their weight
loss after childbirth. Also, a baby's nursing causes a woman's uterus to contract
and reduces blood flow after delivery and creates a lesser chance that she will
later develop breast cancer or even uterine cancer.

The environment and a family's finances also reap the benefits of
breast-feeding. When a mother chooses to breast-feed a child instead of using
formula, there is not only a decrease in air, water and land pollution from the
production of formula and its packaging, but a family also can save about $2,000
a year that would otherwise have been spent on formula.

Even in light of all of its health, environment and financial advantages, possibly
one of the greatest benefits of breast-feeding is the connection that it creates
between an infant and a mother, says Freed.

"People have been able to demonstrate the phenomenal bond that takes place
between a mother and an infant throughout the process of nursing," says Freed.
"There have been studies to show that the rates of child abuse are lower in
women who breast-feed their babies -- both rates of abuse from the mom as
well as rates of abuse from the dad."

Still, many moms worry breast-feeding excludes dad from helping with the baby.
But according to Freed, that doesn't have to happen. Dads can play an important
role in breast-feeding by providing support for mom and baby, and by
participating in the feeding process by, for example, going to get the baby for
nighttime feedings.

Cooperation from all members within a family can make all the difference when
breast-feeding. Without proper support, some women can easily become
discouraged and believe that they are just unable to breast-feed. But Freed
warns that women shouldn't give in so soon to that common misconception.

"If a large proportion of women in our population couldn't breast-feed, then it's
likely our species would have died out several thousand years ago when there
were no human milk substitutes," says Freed.

In fact, only about 3 percent of the entire female population is unable to produce
enough milk to support their children. Other women may just have difficulty
breast-feeding as the result of a lack of proper instruction or support from health
care professionals.

Of the estimated 50 percent of women in the United States who initiate
breast-feeding, only 20 percent continue to breast-feed their babies after six
months. This, Freed says, may be the result of some women having difficulty
judging whether or not their baby is getting enough milk because they haven't
received correct instructions on how to increase their milk supply, or learned
how to make their bodies produce enough milk to nourish their infants.

"For something that's supposed to be so natural and so easy, it can be really
tough to get it started and, a lot of times, people need some practical guidance
and problem-solving advice from the medical profession," says Freed. "We all
need to work together to help moms and dads make this as smooth and
successful a process as possible."

The benefits of breast-feeding however, can be greatly altered if the mother
ingests substances that can be potentially harmful to a baby, such as alcohol or
nicotine products, which are transferred through breast milk.

When it comes to smoking, there can be a great risk to the baby's health. Using
nicotine-containing products while nursing has many negative consequences
and Freed strongly recommends that women not smoke if they are

The use of herbal supplements also raises some concerns with breast-feeding.
Since the concentrations of herbal products are not regulated, it has been
difficult to determine the effects they may have on breast milk.

"Herbal medications, for the most part, are a black box," says Freed. "Because
no studies have been done to determine the impact on babies for many of the
herbal medications, we strongly feel that women should exercise significant
caution in ingesting any medication, whether it be prescription, over-the-counter
or herbal, while they're breast-feeding." He advises that women discuss these
matters with their physician.

One thing that's not in doubt is the effect of a healthy diet. Nursing moms need
to maintain a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables,
calcium, prenatal vitamins, and a minimal amount of caffeine, to produce
enough milk for their babies.

Overall, Freed says, if a nursing mom is properly instructed and knows all of the
precautions she should take, breast-feeding can be a rewarding and even
relaxing experience.

Colleen Smyth, a nursing mom who got advice from U-M experts, recommends
breast-feeding to all expectant moms because it will give them an opportunity
every day to sit down and spend quality time with their babies.

"It's a very special time to bond with your baby and to look and see how much
your baby has grown -- and you know that it's come from nature and your body,"
says Smyth. "It's just a rewarding, wonderful feeling."

Facts about breast-feeding:

· Only 50 percent of women in the United States initiate breastfeeding and only
20 percent continue to breastfeed their babies after six months.

· Breastfeeding provides infants superior nutrition and resistance to certain

· Breast milk has been shown to increase brain and cognitive development in
infants. It also can protect nursing mothers from breast or uterine cancer later in

· The majority of women can breastfeed with proper support and instruction from
health care professionals.

· Nursing mothers should eat a well-balanced diet, including prenatal vitamins,
and avoid the use of alcohol, nicotine, drugs, herbal medications and caffeine.

Breast-Fed Babies Stay Slimmer
Thu Jun 6, 2002 11:56 PM ET

Researchers at the University of Glasgow in Scotland have found that infants who are breast-fed could have a 30 percent reduced risk of childhood obesity compared with infants given formula.

"This is another piece of evidence that 'breast is best,'" says John Reilly, principal investigator of the study, the largest of its kind, which appears in the June 8 issue of The Lancet.

"It's very much in line with a number of papers that have been published recently, which basically show the same thing -- a modest but significant reduction in obesity," says Dr. Lawrence Gartner, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics' executive committee on breast-feeding. "It looks like a good piece of work, and it is certainly a large population."

Reilly calculated the body-mass index (BMI) of 32,200 Scottish children when they were 39 to 42 months old, then correlated these figures with whether or not the kids had been exclusively breast-fed for their first 6 to 8 weeks.

Those who were exclusively breast-fed had a modestly lower risk of being obese, with obesity defined as being in the top two percent for BMI. The risk remained low for breast-fed children even after adjusting for socioeconomic status, birth weight and gender.

Although the results of this study are applicable only for children to age 3, other evidence suggests that the protective effect should persist and perhaps even grow stronger over time, say the study authors.

There are also significant public-policy implications.

"For obesity prevention, we have few, if any, strategies which have been demonstrated to work, so being able to establish formula-feeding as a risk factor is important," says Reilly, who is a senior lecturer in the University of Glasgow's Department of Human Nutrition.

"Breast-feeding is not a panacea for obesity, but it is now established as a beneficial strategy, can be adopted by a large segment of the population, is safe, and has lots of other health and social benefits to mother and child," he adds.

What is not exactly clear is why breast-fed children are less likely to be fat.

According to Carol Huotari, manager of La Leche League's Center for Breast-Feeding Information, babies nursing at the breast stop when they're full, whereas formula-fed infants are subject to the "clean-slate syndrome," in which their parents try to control how much they're fed.

There are also a number of possible metabolic causes, Reilly adds. For instance, she says, formula has higher plasma insulin than breast milk and could promote fat deposits.

What To Do

For more information on breast-feeding, visit La Leche League or the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Study: Breast-feeding lowers cancer risk

By Miriam Falco
CNN Medical Unit

(CNN) July 18, 2002 --Women who breast-feed longer and bear more children are better protected from breast cancer, according to new study published in the British medical journal The Lancet.

Researchers found if women in developed countries breast-fed their children just six months longer than they do now, 25,000 breast cancers worldwide could be prevented each year.

"Yesterday you would have been told we don't know what the major causes for breast cancer are," said Valerie Beral, lead author of the study and an epidemiologist with Cancer Research UK.

"Now what we're saying is that we do know what the major causes for breast cancers are, and we don't know what to do about them yet. It's complicated."

Researchers compared data from 47 studies in 30 countries and found the incidence of breast cancer lower among women in developing countries because they tend to have more children and breast-feed longer than women in developed countries.

The study involved 50,302 women with breast cancer and 96,973 without the disease.

According to the study, a woman's risk for breast cancer decreased by about 4.3 percent for every 12 months she breast-fed. The risk went down 7 percent more for every child born.

Beral said women in developing countries of Asia and Africa still have many more children and breast-feed much longer than women in the United States or in Europe.

"This is the main reason why breast cancer is common in the U.S. and it's uncommon in developing countries," Beral said. "The number of children women have and how long they breast-feed is different."

Data provided in the study showed that if women in developed countries such as the United States and Britain have an average of 2.5 children and breast-feed for approximately three months, their risk for getting breast cancer by age 70 is 6.3 percent.

That is because they are breast-feeding for approximately eight months in their lifetime.

By contrast, women in developing countries -- in Asia or Africa, for example -- who bear six or seven children and breast-feed them for two years each will be breast-feeding for about 13 years.

According to the study, their risk for breast cancer by age 70 is only 2.7 percent -- a more than a 50 percent decrease compared to their counterparts in the developed world.

Eugenia Calle, director of analytic epidemiology for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, Georgia, said scientists, women and the media all want to identify the culprit for the cause of breast cancer.

"The dramatic changes that have occurred in childbearing over past 50 to 75 years really can explain a fairly large amount of breast cancer incidence in developed countries," Calle said.

"This might encourage women to breast-feed a little longer. You're not going to hugely increase the benefit, but every little bit helps," she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends "exclusive breast-feeding for approximately the first six months after birth and that breast-feeding continue for at least 12 months and thereafter for as long as is mutually desired."

World Health Organization recommendations go even further, suggesting women continue "to breast-feed up to two years or longer."

Beral said the study did not offer any recommendations, noting that the "practical implications are very complex."

Beral and Calle agreed it was unrealistic to think Western women would revert to a lifestyle from two centuries ago.

"The take-home message is that this study gives us a more definitive reason that breast-feeding is one way to reduce risk of breast cancer," said Dr. Anne McTiernan with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.

McTiernan, author of the book "Breast Fitness," also stressed there are other ways for women to reduce their risk for breast cancer, including exercising three or more hours a week, which she said reduces one's risk for breast cancer by 30 to 40 percent.

The study was funded by Cancer Research UK and the WHO.