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Expecting a baby? Consider breast-feeding

By BRUCE EPSTEIN, M.D.

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 2, 2000


Expectant mothers and fathers-to-be are bombarded with decisions to make about how they will raise their babies. Cloth or disposable diapers? Day care, nanny or stay-at-home parent? Public or private school? But by far, the decision that will have the greatest impact on the physical and mental development of every child is: breast milk or formula?

Health professionals agree that breast-feeding is the ideal method of feeding infants. In December 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that strongly supports breast-feeding exclusively for six months and continuing at least through a child's first year, citing health, nutritional and social benefits, among many others.

"A baby's development during the first year of his or her life depends, to a great extent, on receiving a mother's breast milk," said Patty Brown, co-founder of Breastfeeding.com, an online resource for breast-feeding information and support. "Parents need to know this."

"One of the biggest barriers to breast-feeding is little or incorrect information.

"Not many mothers are aware of the benefits of breast-feeding for both their baby and themselves, or of the proper breast-feeding techniques. And, although breast-feeding is natural, it is not always easy. We created the Web site, Breastfeeding.com, to provide mothers and fathers with a fun and informative place to get the information, facts and expert advice they need. Visitors to our site also have access, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to the support of thousands of other moms through chat rooms and message boards."

So what are the benefits? According to leading breast-feeding experts, babies who are breast-fed:

get the best nutrition available;

are smarter;

have stronger immune systems;

have lower risks of leukemia, multiple sclerosis and heart disease;

are leaner for life;

have fewer ear infections.

Mothers who breast-feed:

forge stronger bonds with their babies;

have lower risks of breast, ovarian and cervical cancers;

lose weight faster;

are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life;

avoid the expense and inconvenience of formula, which can cost $1,000 the first year;

know they are giving the best, most natural food to their babies.

For breast-feeding tips from health professionals, support from other nursing mothers and the latest breast-feeding news, visit http://www.breastfeeding.com.

World Breastfeeding Week is a global campaign to raise public support and acceptance of breast-feeding. More than 100 countries around the world celebrate World Breastfeeding Week each year. Help spread the word about the many benefits of breast-feeding.

World Breastfeeding Week marks the anniversary of the signing of the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding. Adopted on Aug. 1, 1990 by 32 governments and 10 United Nations agencies, the declaration recognizes the importance of breast-feeding to infant and maternal health, as well as the social and economic benefits to society.

- Bruce A. Epstein practiced pediatrics in St. Petersburg for 26 years. He edits the Web site http://www.kidsgrowth.com.

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