There are a million and one reasons why breast-feeding a newborn beats formula. As reported by Pam Belluck writing for the NYTimes, "Hospitals Ditch Formula Samples to Promote Breast-Feeding," it's generally healthiest for mom and baby. Excerpt.
"Breast-feeding decreases babies’ risk of ear infections, diarrhea, asthma and other diseases, and may reduce risk of obesity and slightly improve I.Q., experts say. "
So why send mom home from the hospital after giving birth with some nifty little gift bags packed with sample cans of formula? Some argue that the samples are too convenient at helping to deter a mother from breast-feeding when she learns how easy it is to just pop the top. Others argue that babies do just fine on formula. And still others argue that hospitals should be in the business of health - spelled mother's natural breast milk - and not canned formula. Excerpt.
"The question is whether samples tempt mothers who could breast-feed exclusively for the recommended six months to use formula when they’re exhausted or discouraged if nursing proves difficult. The C.D.C., the World Health Organization and breast-feeding advocates say samples turn hospitals into formula sales agents and imply that hospitals think formula is as healthy as breast-feeding. Health experts warn that even small amounts of formula dilute breast-feeding’s benefits by altering intestinal micro-organisms and decreasing breast milk supply, since women produce less when babies nurse less. They say that while some women face serious breast-feeding challenges, more could nurse longer with greater support, and that formula samples can weaken that support system."
Moms, like each of us, should know what's in what we ingest. Click here to read more about the political nature of "Ban the Bags" program designed to eliminate samples of formula distributed by hospitals to new moms.
Then ask yourself about the more complex story of toxic chemicals that are passed through breast milk to nursing babies. Chemicals like DDT, PCBs, mercury, lead, benzene, perchlorane, and others.
"Yes, human milk is like ice cream, penicillin, and the drug ecstacy all wrapped up in two pretty packages. But, women "off-load" up to90 percent of their own chemical loads through their breast milk, prompting Norway, the country with "the single highest breast-feeding rate in the world," to consider recommending that women limit their breast-feeding to six months. Firstborn infants are at particular risk of chemical exposure through breast milk."
"Not only are babies and toddlers with high toxic levels of contaminants scoring lower on tests of mental, verbal, IQ, and physical development, chemicals are disrupting puberty. "Today, half of all the girls in the United States start popping breasts by their tenth birthday," a statistic that is particularly disturbing when paired with this one: "If you get your first period before age twelve, your risk of breast cancer is 50 percent higher than if you get it at age sixteen."
I guess like the canaries in the mine, womens' breasts are a window to an increasingly toxic world that calls for tighter regulations on food, chemicals, bottled water. Maybe before banning formula samples we take another look at overall environmental, food and water health to learn who is feeding what to whom.