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— The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies receive nothing but breast milk for about the first six months, and that breastfeeding continue for at least a year.

— Babies who are fed formula early rather than breast milk have higher risks of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, sudden infant death syndrome, and tend to require more doctor visits.

— Mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Breastfeeding Boom Among Local Moms

Breastfeeding of newborns has risen dramatically among mothers involved in a counseling initiative through the Mobile County [Alabama] Health Department.

That’s good news, because breastfed infants typically suffer fewer health woes, and because these low-income mothers realize that they don’t need to buy expensive formula.

In 2005, the Health Department began employing breastfeeding peer counselors to encourage the practice, said Elizabeth W. Smith, the local agency’s director of Nutrition Services and the Women, Infants and Children program.

“Peer counselors are sharing how they were able to breastfeed successfully, sometimes without family support, how they were able to fit breastfeeding into returning to work and/or school,” she said. Also, Smith said, they’re “addressing myths regarding breastfeeding.”

The number of breastfeeding mothers served through the Teen Center WIC program in Mobile has nearly doubled, Smith said. In 2005, about 23 percent of new mothers at the Eight Mile clinic chose to breastfeed, according to local data. In July 2011, that number was 41 percent.

“Breastfeeding is one of our most underutilized ways to promote health,” said Dr. Catherine E. Palmier, chief medical officer for United Health Care clinical services who has also been a pediatrician for 25 years.

“Breastfed infants clearly have lower rates of respiratory and GI infections, and that’s because of the immunities passed from mothers to babies,” Palmier said. “And infants who are breastfed show a more consistent pattern of weight gain. It’s really what nature intended.”

Breastfeeding helps protect against childhood obesity, according to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]. A
baby’s risk of becoming an overweight child goes down with each month of breastfeeding.

For mothers, Palmier said, key benefits include lower rates of breast and ovarian cancers, and a more even weight loss following pregnancy. Also, they may experience less depression, according to some studies, likely because of the hormones produced in breastfeeding.
In the U.S., most babies start out by breastfeeding, studies indicate, but within the first week, half have been given formula, the CDC reports. By nine months, only 31 percent of babies are being breast-fed at all, according to CDC research.

“With breastfeeding, a lot of women don’t necessarily feel comfortable talking about it,” said Meridith Gardner, a lactation consultant
and nutrition associate who oversees peer counselors with the local Health Department. “Because the peer counselors are calling them, hopefully they are going to catch them when they might have problems.” Gardner said,
“It does feel like we are making an impact.”

[15 Aug 11, CASANDRA ANDREWS, Mobile Press-Register, p. 1D]