Statistics and breastfeeding: More proofs of breast milk's healthful advantages-A A +A
Monday, July 25, 2011
THE act of breastfeeding has a long history to tell.
In an anthropologic perspective, no one will argue that breastfeeding has been the traditional and natural way of feeding infants and generally "babies".
Historical data showed that even before the primitive eras, whenever the biological mother was unable to breastfeed for any reason, a "wet nurse" or a breastfeeding mother substitute is called upon to fill the inadequacies of the biological mother.
Furthermore, infant formulas may have appeared in the market for as early as the 19thcentury, but its uses did not become wide spread until World War II.
Somehow, the so-called "breast milk substitute invasion" has been so extensive that to some countries, especially the highly industrialized ones, have made it a culture to bottle feed instead of breast feeding.
Over the years, concerned advocates of breast feeding have nested heavily in researches that would not totally outdo bottle feeding but rather encourage mothers to breastfeed through heightened awareness of the breast milk's advantages.
According to La Leche League International, one classic study followed 20,000 babies in Chicago in the 1920s and 30s. The said respondents were divided into three categories, based on how they were fed: (1) breastfed regularly; (2) breastfed partially; and (3) totally formula fed and was followed for nine months.
To establish the credibility of the study, meticulous record keeping was practiced to include all causes of deaths and illnesses due to infection of the 20,000 baby respondents.
Based on their epidemiologic data, the study was able to pinpoint respiratory infections and gastrointestinal infections, such as diarrheal diseases as the primary and secondary causes, respectively, of infant mortality and morbidity among the respondents.
Furthermore, the study found that babies who were breastfed were less likely to be infected compared to their counterpart respondents who were either breastfed partially or artificially fed totally.
"This is due to the breast milk's unique anti-infective qualities," says Dr. Herbert Ratner, a long time medical advisor of La Leche League International.
"Being nature's vaccine for the newborn, the breast milk has unique substances that help to explain why breastfed babies are healthier," he adds.
Dr. Ratner concludes that 30 years of research on the immunology of breastfeeding has revealed a rich array of protective substances that fight bacteria and viruses to keep the baby from getting seriously sick.
In 1977, another research was done in the United States which was aimed at comparing the illnesses among breastfed and bottle fed babies.
However, this time, the respondents for the breastfed babies came from those of the lower socioeconomic status. In contrast, the bottle fed babies came from the middle to high class families who enjoyed a high level of sophisticated medical care and housing.
Ironically, Dr. Allan Cunningham, the research director, found that episodes of significant illness were uncommon to breastfed babies compared to the so-called "well-pampered" yet bottle fed babies who may have the best of what life has to offer.
To date, a number of quality researches followed with the following results or advantages for the baby -- greater immune health, fewer infections, higher intelligence, less incidence of diabetes, less likelihood of childhood obesity, and fewer tendencies to develop allergies.
Breastfeeding, as they say, is mother nature's way of telling us that everything we ever wanted has been provided for us.
In a religious perspective, breastfeeding is a gift from above that serves its purpose in due time.
Although culture plays a huge role in its practice, still, when wrestling with the thought of breastfeeding your baby or not, ask yourself this question: "Do I want to deprive my baby with all the healthful benefits of breastfeeding?"
The answer is absolutely NO.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on July 26, 2011.