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Exclusive Breast-Feeding Not the Norm in U.S.
Date:11/12/2011

acts in concert to promote good health in vulnerable newborns.

Health benefits that babies gain from breast-feeding, according to Schanler, Viehmann and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, include:

  • Protection against infections of the ear and respiratory system.
  • Protection against diseases of the digestive and intestinal tract that cause vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Reduced likelihood that the child will develop such chronic diseases as diabetes, asthma and obesity later in life.
  • Enhanced brain development.
  • Decreased risk for leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.

These protections have been found unique to breast milk. Baby formula manufacturers have been unable to replicate the chemical makeup of breast milk, Schanler explained, and thus have not been able to create a product that provides the same health benefits.

"It's not so easy to just say we'll take one component out and put it in a substitute milk," Schanler said. "It's really the interaction of all these factors together that produce these protective effects."

Studies have shown that most successful breast-feeding begins within an hour of birth, Viehmann said. Unfortunately, that's the time when many hospitals tend to whisk the child away while the mother recovers.

"The hospital system is not supportive of keeping the mother and the baby together and unseparated," she added. "They like to take the babies away to weigh them and dry them."

Hospital care also can hamper breast-feeding by not giving mother and child enough uninterrupted time together, Viehmann said. Newborns often need to nurse every 60 to 90 minutes for a good portion of the day, but new moms in a hospital are constantly pestered by nurses, doctors, administrators, loved ones and well-wishers.

"So then they're tired," she said. "They're supposed to sleep when the baby sleeps
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