Ask Dr. Paul Library
Breastfeeding In The 21st Century: Still Best For Baby!
DEAR DR. PAUL: I am breastfeeding my new baby girl. I recently read about a study linking breast feeding to obesity later on in life. Should I be concerned?
PEDIATRICIAN DR. PAUL Answers: I am glad you asked this question as we need to get facts straight. The main point of this article will be that despite this one isolated study, breastfeeding is the best nutrition for baby. The World Health Organization's position is that breast milk is sufficient nutrition for the first 6 months of life. Some of the many advantages of breastfeeding include protection against ear, intestinal and urinary infections.Also, breastfeeding may help protect against SIDS(Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). There are numerous nutritional benefits as breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients to support/ensure normal growth and development. From the social stand point we know that breastfeeding promotes mother-infant bonding. As well, there are numerous benefits of breastfeeding to the mother. Now that I have cleared my position let me briefly discuss the study you refer to. This is only one study and even its authors caution that they did not take into account the dietary and lifestyle patterns of children as they were growing up beyond the period of breastfeeding. Given that there are so many other studies proving the many health and social benefits of breastfeeding, I think that this one particular study is not a reason to be concerned at all.
We have known of the many benefits of breastfeeding for many years, however I want to take a " new millennium" look at some of the issues specific to our "present day and age". Breastfeeding is very inexpensive, practical and quite portable; It is not necessary to purchase bottles, infant formula or other accessories. From the ecological point of view, breastfeeding is very "environmentally friendly. "
Another modern day issue that has arisen with the evolution of both parents working, is breastfeeding at the workplace and /or providing time for working mothers to express and collect their milk at work. Actually, this should be considered a right of all working mothers. As a matter of fact, there is a large concerted political lobby effort to make this into law. The advantages extend beyond those mentioned above; By allowing mothers to breastfeed or to express their milk at work, job satisfaction and hence productivity will increase to everyone's benefit, including the employers. I urge parents to apply the necessary political pressure to include this right into legislation.
On a final note, one of the issues that has appalled me is the attitude toward breastfeeding in public. I think that anyone who perceives breastfeeding in public places as "obscene or indecent" is very wrong. There was a recent incident in a large city where a mother was asked to leave a shopping mall by security because she was breast-feeding. On the contrary, not only should breastfeeding be allowed in public places, I think that they should facilitate breast-feeding on their premises. The fewer barriers to breastfeeding, the longer it will continue. How long should a mom breastfeed for? For as long as possible.