By G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
The percentage of mothers who breast-feed has been declining in the last decade from a high of 62 percent in 1982 to a current level of just over 50 percent.1
This is a disturbing trend, especially when one considers how beneficial human milk is for infants.
One clue for this decline may come from an article in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine earlier this year, where the authors gave a questionnaire to doctors and support staff in the pediatric wing of an academic training center. Only 14 percent of the doctors felt confident managing breast-feeding problems. The staff missed 47 percent of the questions on breast-feeding.2
The benefits of breast-feeding to both mother and child keep making the news. A few of the latest discoveries include:
- Breast-fed infants score higher on developmental and visual tests than formula-fed babies.3
- Breast-fed babies have a decreased risk of getting breast cancer when they grow up.4
- Mothers who breast-feed have a lower risk of getting breast cancer.5
- Babies who were exclusively fed breast milk for 16 weeks or more had a 50 percent lower rate of acute otitis media.6
- Infants who were exclusively fed breast milk for 12 or more weeks had a 34 percent lower risk of developing diabetes.7
Good news for women into physical fitness shows that aerobic exercise at four to five times per week for 45 minutes each session beginning six to eight weeks after delivery had no adverse effects on breast-feeding.8
The federal government has set a goal of having 75 percent of mothers in the United States breast-feeding by the year 2000. I hope they make it.
G. Douglas Andersen, DC, DACBSP, CCN
- Pierce and Calvin. Breast-feeding is failing to thrive. Family Practice News. April 15, 1994; 5.
- Williams and Hammer. Breast-feeding attitudes and knowledge of pediatricians in training. American Journal of Preventative Medicine. 1995; 11:26-33.
- Makrides and Neumann, et al. Fatty acid composition of brain, retina, and erythrocytes in breast and formula-fed infants. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Vol 60; 189-194; 1994.
- Freudenheim M et al. Exposure to breast milk in infancy and the risk of breast cancer. Epidemiology. 5:324-331; 1994.
- Neucomb et al. Lactation and reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer. New England Journal of Medicine. January 14, 1994; 330(2):81-87.
- Sheard. Breast-feeding protects against otitis media. Nutrition Reviews. 51(9):275-277.
- Hurley. Studies confirm diabetes risk from cow's milk in infants. Medical Tribune. February 2, 1995; 11.
- Dewey et al. A randomized study of the effects of aerobic exercise by lactating women on breast milk volume and composition. New England Journal of Medicine. February 17, 1994; 330(7): 449-453.
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