Breast Feeding Saves LivesMonday, April 5th, 2010
A few days ago a study was released by the American Academy of Pediatrics showing that hundreds of babies’ lives could be saved each year if U.S. women breastfed their babies for the first six months of life.
This is not entirely new news. In 2001, The American Academy of Pediatrics came out solidly with the recommendation that all babies be exclusively breast fed for a minimum of six months and optimally for one year. The interesting thing about this study is that it was connected primarily as a cost analysis related to childhood illness and disease.
In North America and in many other westernized countries a woman’s breasts are a taboo: they are supposed to be hidden. Exposing woman’s breasts in public is considered shameful and inappropriate (“indecent exposure”) even on beaches or while breastfeeding. Many times children don’t see a single naturally nude breast (apart from their own) while growing up. It is entirely possible for an American child to grow up never seeing a baby breastfeeding.
According to the March of Dimes, 77% of new mothers breast feed initially and at six months less than 40% are breast feeding at all. There are many reasons women choose not to breast feed and they should be supported for their choices. However, it is equally important that women be well educated in the benefits of breast feeding and the potential risks of not.
I breast fed Alexander for just under a year, at which time he weaned himself. It was as if one day he simply decided he wanted “real food” and he has been a voracious eater ever since. Although he has always been very healthy, I was certain that breastfeeding would give him immunity to my hay fever. No such luck. Here it is only the beginning of April and the poor kid has red, itchy eyes and is sneezing up a storm. Breastfeeding does not create nirvana but it is the way human babies were meant to be nourished and it simply cannot be duplicated.