Hoddinott et al have written a very timely clinical review of breast feeding in the BMJ of 19th April 2008.
Breast feeding is crucial to infant health in developing countries, but there are possible longer term benefits to act against subsequent obesity, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and cancer.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breast feeding, that is breast milk only , with no water, other fluids, or solids for six months, with supplemental breast feeding continuing for two years and beyond.
In the UK and the United States, breast feeding rates have been low for decades and can seem remarkably resistant to change.
Formula milk is just a food, whereas breast milk is a complex living nutritional fluid that contains anti-bodies, enzymes, and hormones, all of which have health benefits. In addition, some methods of delivering formula milk expose the baby to serious risks of infection. Early intake of colustrum, which is rich in antibodies, is especially important in developing countries, and the small volume of colostrum helps to prevent renal overload when the newborn baby is adjusting its fluid balance
In countries with poor services , contaminated drinking water , low immunisation rates and reduced immunity babies readily die. And each baby is born from a pregnancy where the mother is at risk. Exclusive breast feeding could prevent 1.3 million deaths in children under 5 years.
Good education and training for new mothers would make such a difference to the breast feeding rates
Breast fed babies may not grow at the same rate as bottle fed babies so new growth charts may need to be constructed to avoid unfavourable comparisons.
Hoddinott et al 2008 Breast feeding BMJ vol 336, 881-7
- Martin Eastwood