maandag 7 maart 2011

Breastfeeding is best - a myth?

When talking to breastfeeding mums, it is obvious that they believe breast milk is better than anything else. They sometimes even become agressive if you dare to suggest that artificial milk (or milk powder) could excellently replace mother milk. Some people even talk about the Ayatollah's of Breastfeeding or the Breast Milk Maffia. But the ultimate question is of course: are they wrong?

Clinical studies have proven that in most situations human breast milk is the best source of nourishment for human infants, and this for at least up to the first six months after birth. Breast milk promotes health of both mother and child, reduces health care costs and prevents disease. Of course there are exceptions, for example in situations where the mother takes certain drugs or suffers from tuberculosis or is infected with HIV.

The only point of discussion amongst real scientists (thus excluding those 'scientists' that are being paid by the food and pharmaceutical industry) is about how long you should breastfeed to obtain the greatest benefits. There is also some debate about how "bad" using artificial feeding is. For example, in both developing and developed countries, artificial feeding is associated with more illnesses and deaths from diarrhoea in infants.

Whether breastfeeding in public is accepted, depends on culture and country. In most Western countries the majority of the public approves of breastfeeding in public, but some mothers are reluctant to do so out of fear of public opinion. Government should take every measure possible to promote breastfeeding and therefore make is less likely that mothers have fears about public opinion.