Thursday, August 07, 2008

In Praise of Breastfeeding

Dr. Melissa Bartick—a friend of mine who also happens to be a breastfeeding advocate—recently had an article, "Let's Get Serious About Promoting Breastfeeding," published in The Huffington Post. She mentions The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as outlined by the UNICEF/WHO Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the United States.

I'm not an expert on the subject, but I'm amazed that breastfeeding would even need advocacy. If anything, I'd think that formula feeding would "need" it. And I suppose the formula feeding does get some very effective advocacy from marketers who stand to make profits from pushing formula on people who don't really need to use it. The preponderance of evidence suggests that, in many cases, breastfeeding is healthier for children as well as economically and environmentally advisable.

Anyway, with today being the end of World Breastfeeding Week, I figure this is a good time to return to the subject as it relates to celiac disease. As Nancy Lapid points out, the current wisdom is that breastfeeding with a slow introduction to gluten between the fourth and sixth months can significantly reduce or postpone the emergence of celiac disease among infants. As I've mentioned previously, Swedish findings on this subject were dramatic, appearing to eliminate a very large number of infant cases—though not all of them. (Note that the recommendation is different than the "exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months" practice suggested by some breastfeeding advocates. This discrepancy needs to be addressed!)

Breastfeeding isn't easy for all women, but coaches can address many problems women face regarding breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding advocates argue that public policy support of breastfeeding as a form of preventative care can save money in the long run by protecting children from health problems. A similar "economic" case can be made for public policy that supports at least stalling celiac disease through strategically timed breastfeeding. And a similar case can be made for getting more people screened and properly advised regarding celiac disease. In other words: Enabling people on gluten-free and other medical diets to receive insurance coverage for visits to dietitians and nutritionists should save money in the long run, and encourage professionals to become better informed.

Here's a simple, silent tribute to breastfeeding from Burlington, Vermont.

Source (5:51)

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