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Breastfeeding News

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Breast-Feeding Fights Cancer
click to enlarge photo UNICEF, India

Breast-Feeding Fights Cancer 

Breast-feeding not only makes babies healthier, it's also good for mothers. A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds that prolonged breast-feeding may dramatically cut a woman's risk for breast cancer. In the study, Yale University researchers looked at data from 1997-1999 on 808 rural Chinese women aged 30 to 80. Half the women studied had had breast cancer while the other half had not. The researchers found that women who had breast-fed for two years or longer reduced their risk for breast cancer by 50 percent . The lower risk was for cancer that develop both before and after menopause.

The number of babies a woman breast-fed and her age when she first breast-fed did not appear to affect her cancer risk, the researchers found. The researchers did not investigate why breast-feeding might lower the risk for breast cancer. They say it could be because breast-feeding reduces a woman's exposure to estrogen or because lactating breasts are less likely to store fat-soluble carcinogens, The Associated Press reports. The researchers say their findings suggest that American women should be encouraged to breast-feed for longer than most usually do, according to the AP.

more on breast cancer
more on the benefits of breast-feeding


Breast Feeding Better for Low-Weight Babies 

Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Scientists from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health have found that exclusive breastfeeding is best for low-birth-weight infants during the  first six months of life. Studies conducted in Bangladesh show that babies  born small at birth, if exclusively breast-fed, had significantly better  chances for catch-up growth compared to small infants given other fluids or  foods during the first six months. The report appears in the March 2001  issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study also found that the differences in weight and length between low-birth-weight infants and their heavier peers remained the same throughout the first year of life. This is in contrast to babies born in more developed countries, where pre-term and small infants usually grow faster and eventually catch-up to their heavier peers later in life.

Said senior author Abdullah Baqui, associate professor, International Health, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, "Infants born in the slums of Dhaka appear to be confined within 'growth channels' determined at birth, so that bigger babies grew ever bigger relative to their smaller peers." Although shorter babies did appear to make up some of their shortfall in the first six months, the taller babies grew relatively even taller in the second six months of life.

The researchers observed a group of infants born in Dhaka from birth until age 12 months during 1993-1995. Each baby's weight and length were measured at enrolment and again during follow-up visits carried out at ages 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Information was also collected on feeding and illness since birth. Almost half of the newborns (46.4 percent) were low-birth-weight (under 2,500 grams). Pre-term deliveries accounted for 17 percent of all infants, and almost 70 percent of the samples were small for gestational age. A little more than half of the infants were exclusively breastfed at one month of age, a figure that declined to about a quarter of the infants by three months.

All other factors remaining constant, infants who were exclusively breastfed in the first three months were on average about 95 grams heavier and 0.5 centimetres taller at 12 months than those partially or not breastfed. In addition, the investigation showed that foods and fluids other than breast milk, if given before age six months, had an independent negative effect on the weight and length an infant will attain. "This," said Dr. Baqui, 'further strengthens the argument that complementary foods before six months of life are not necessary and are frequently detrimental."

The investigators also studied the effects of illness on growth. Diarrhea negatively affected both weight and length significantly in both newborns and those past six months of age. Acute respiratory infection had a significant negative association with weight but not length, and the size of this effect was larger in the older infants.

The authors emphasized that a better understanding of the role of nutritional status at birth in infant growth could help policy makers in developing countries to forge appropriate decisions about health programs. The scientists said that breastfeeding's sustained effect on growth and its even more beneficial effect in lighter infants were compelling reasons for promoting exclusive breastfeeding in early infancy. They hope their results will provide renewed impetus to the efforts for the promotion of breastfeeding, especially exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life.


Study Bolsters Evidence That Breast-Fed Babies Are Healthier 
CHICAGO (AP) - A study of more than 16,000 Eastern European mothers offers some of the strongest evidence yet that breast-feeding makes babies healthier.

more information on breast-feeding 


Breast-Fed Is Best
Researchers have even stronger evidence that breast-fed babies are healthier. A study of 16,000 Eastern European women found that intensive breast-feeding makes babies significantly less likely to develop intestinal infections and eczema. In the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from Montreal's McGill University looked at births at 31 hospitals and clinics in Belarus. Half of these hospitals and clinics were assigned to implement an intensive breast-feeding program, in which women were given instruction and counseling, while the rest provided their usual obstetric care. The study is different from others on breast-feeding because it sets up an experimental and a control group rather than relying on after-the-fact data to draw conclusions, The Associated Press reports. The researchers found that by age 12 months, nearly 20 percent of the babies involved in the breast-feeding program were still nursing, compared to 11.4 percent of the control group. In that time, 9 percent of babies in the breast-feeding program had at least one intestinal infection and 3 percent of them developed an allergic skin condition called atopic eczema. Among the babies in the control group, those figures were 13 percent and 6 percent. Earlier research has linked breast-feeding to a host of benefits including fewer earaches and colds and fewer cases of asthma and other allergies, the AP says.

more on breast-feeding 
more on babies' health 


Vitamin D Supplementation Urged For Breast-Fed, Dark-Skinned Infants
Dark-skinned infants are at increased risk of developing rickets, particularly if they are primarily breast-fed, according to researchers in Texas.


Breast Milk Fights Infant Diarrhea - Johns Hopkins


Breast-Feeding Cuts Obesity Risk
LONDON -Babies are less likely to grow up into fat children if they are fed breast milk exclusively, a new study shows — providing powerful ammunition for the campaign to encourage mothers to choose the breast over the bottle.


Breast Is Best But Soy Milk Has Benefits Too, Say Docs

(Medical Tribune) - Hot on the heels of a German study that found breastfed babies were less likely than formula-fed ones to become obese, controversial new information suggests that soy formula may provide other health benefits that breastfeeding does not.


Mothers Who Breastfeed Advised Not To Smoke
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) -- Breast-fed infants whose mothers smoke have a 5 times higher level of cotinine, a nicotine by-product, in their urine than infants of smokers who do not breastfeed, Canadian researchers report. But since breastfeeding has been shown to protect against a number of ailments, including respiratory illnesses, the findings should encourage nursing moms to quit smoking, not to stop breastfeeding, according to the report in the July issue of the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.


Exclusive Breastfeeding Cuts Child's Asthma Risk
SAN DIEGO (Reuters Health) -- Exclusive breastfeeding through 4 months of age protects against asthma for at least the first 6 years of life, according to Dr. Wendy Oddy, of the TVW Telethon Institute for Child Health Research in Perth, Western Australia.


Increased Breast Feeding Could Save Lives, Study Finds
UNITED NATIONS (NYT Syndicate) - Increased breast-feeding could save the lives of up to 1.5 million of the roughly 12 million children under the age of 5 who die every year around the world, according to initial findings presented here this week by a group of women's organizations.


Weak Link Found Between Pacifiers, Breastfeeding
Giving an infant a pacifier soon after birth may affect breastfeeding later, according to the first U.S. study to look at the association.


Breast Milk Fights Infant Diarrhea  
In addition to infection-fighting antibodies, human breast milk also contains a compound that helps babies fight rotavirus infection, the leading cause of serious infant diarrhea, say researchers.

Breast milk may "provide several tiers of active defence against the common diseases of infants, including diarrhea," say investigators at Harvard Medical School in Boston, the Instituto Nacional de Nutrition in Mexico City, and elsewhere.

Their study, published in the April 18th issue of The Lancet, focused on the incidence of rotavirus infection (both with and without symptoms) in a group of 200 infants born in a low-income neighbourhood of Mexico City.

Rotavirus is a special threat to children born to poor families, since the rapid dehydration associated with chronic infant diarrhea can be fatal if left untreated.




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