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Hilary's Desk

Breastfeeding - missing the bigger picture

Hilary Butler - Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Whose right - Piri, Dita de Boni, KaraDocherty or the Herald Editorial? None of them. And let me say, straight up, I breastfed, because I wanted to, I could - and I KNEW what the medical literature said about breastmilk.  Now, it says way more. Mammary glands are made to feed babies - with anything else, extra-curricula.  The problem with saying that FORMULA feeding is a choice, is that actually, people who feed formula, aren't given a choice.


If a baby is "allergic to dairy", that doesn't preclude breastfeeding, except for the mother who refuses to remove dairy in her diet. Furthermore, hypoallergenic formula doesn't prevent or treat allergies. The issue isn't about "breastfeeding nazis", because in my seven years breastfeeding I only ever got rude stares in public even if people couldn't see "anything", and most mothers I know still get stick for breast feeding in public. Breastfeeders are the tiny minority in this country, which is why formula is seen as "normal". 

The reason that most of the 2 - 5% of women, who physically cannot breastfeed, put formula in bottles in this country, is because they have no choice but to put formula in that bottle.  First, at the highest level of the paediatric community in this country there is NO COMMITMENT to educating parents of the necessity to breastfeed babies, or to cater for those who CANNOT.  (Note that word - CANNOT.  Not.... "won't") 

High level commitment, could have had led to a smoothly operating, nation-wide breast milk bank  in New Zealand over a decade ago.

Parents should be provided with detailed information on WHY breastfeeding is vital.  Note that word: VITAL - not "optional".

Everything written in the Herald was anecdotal hot air, not fact. Not one of the people mentioned above, who wrote in the Herald explained WHY breastfeeding was best. Even Docherty got it wrong, saying that formula only leads to obesity and that was easily dealt with by getting ones children into sport.  If the Herald's commentaries reflect the level of education on breastfeeding in New Zealand today, no wonder everyone has missed the bigger picture.

Only on Friday did the Herald meekly offer readers a study which showed that breastfeeding protected against asthma.  

The LACK of a breast milk bank in New Zealand, proves that paediatricians in this country have NO COMMITMENT to the fundamental health of New Zealand children.  The medical profession needs to do more then tweet about asthma prevention.  They need to start talking about the HUGE money-saving and health advantages of breast milk, and how breastfeeding sets up a child to AVOID many and diverse key health issues in both the short and long term, right through to the age of 80 and beyond. 

Not one media presentation has effectively detailed the issues, and why should they, when the medical profession won't?  Every first time parent should be able to go to an antenatal class and ask the question, "What do we do if we find we physically cannot breastfeed?" and every parent should be told, "In that event, we refer you to the local breast milk bank."

But then the formula brigade gets in on the act and says, "But the very fact that eminent paediatricians like Peter Nobbs are happy with formula, means there is no issue.  Formula is good.  Formula is our choice".

That argument is incorrect in every aspect - and Peter Nobb knows it.

FACT:  Formula creates a completely different child on many different physiologic, immunologic (and genetic) levels, as anyone who has read Keith Woodford's book, "Devil in the Milk" can tell you.  Is formula A1 milk or A2 milk?  A child's future health could depend on that, but again, no-one's talking about the consequences of A1 formula on type 1 diabetes and heart disease, are they? Paediatricians know all this stuff I'm about to detail, concerning breastmilk and formula..., yet they tell NONE of it to prospective parents or the media, because you KNOW what parents and media are going to do and say:

They will point the finger and ask:  "Well, what are you going to do about it?"

But mothers who physically can't breast feed, don't have the CHOICE to buy breast milk, because the paediatric community thinks that's a total waste of their time and effort.  What sort of example is it, when as recently as 2008, the Auckland Woman's Health Council was aghast at senior paediatrician Peter Nobb's "sell out" to Bayer's 'Novalac Colic", while demonising parents who chose not to vaccinate (who are mostly, long term successful breast feeders)!

Why should a breast-milk bank be set up?



The following is a very INCOMPLETE list of what the medical literature has to say about breast milk, and its influence on how a baby grows, and lives:

Breastfeeding:

In the first two days, clear fluid comes from the breast.  This fluid spreads commensal flora throughout the babies mucosal surfaces and gut area.  This flora was picked up during the baby's descent down the vagina before being born.  (No, caesarian babies don't get that beneficial gut flora innoculation ..., and yes, they pay a price for that.)

Colostrum lays down a huge body of anti-infection components as well as "kick-starting" the instruction of the gut flora. Remember that the intestinal system IS... 70% of a person's immune system, and it orchestrates the rest of the immune system.

Breast milk gives the baby its first stem cell transplant, with pluripotent cells which can help heal in most places of the body, and that stem cell infusion continues for the whole duration of breastfeeding.

Breast milk Inactivates pathogens

Protects against Pneumococcal disease (and protects the infant from other bacterial pathogens). 

Breast milk regulates the immune system's protective pathways. 

Breast milk educates, and orchestrates the immune system,  and activates memory T cells

Breast milk directly and positively affects lung growth and function in school children.

Breast milk helps prevent coeliac disease -.....-   and obesity  The slower growth of breastfed baby reduces the risk of developing other lifestyle diseases later in life.

Breast milk reduces asthma incidence. 

Breast milk neutralises endotoxins from all bacterial diseases (including meningococcal disease) .

Breast milk creates a microbiome (a special colony of very helpful commensal bacteria which depends on breast milk) which is crucial not only to help the immune function properly and defend the baby against infections, but also to protect against cancer, digestive diseases, synthesises micronutrients and concludes the digestion of food components which escape assimilation in the small intestine. The commensal bacteria of a formula bed baby is completely different to that of a breastfed baby.

Breast milk modulates the gut to PREVENT allergy.  However, there is one caveat... If the mother eats fast-food (i.e. "junk") that junk foot neutralises the ability of breast milk to prevent allergy.  It's called the consequences of choices.

Breast milk helps maximise neuronal connections in the brain and increases a baby's IQ in comparison to formula.

Breastfed children also do better at school.

A hormone in breast milk, orchestrates bone density, right through to old age.

A folding protein called HAMLET, patrols a baby's body, nuking cancer wherever it is found.

The act of Breastfeeding reduces the MOTHER's risk of type 2 diabetes in the future. 

Breast milk gut flora, modulates the function of the pituitary and improves stress management in the laboratory and has also been found to reduce mental health issues in (human) adolescents

This is why the WHO prioritizing on breastfeeding and artificial substitutes is:

1) Breastfeeding;

2) The mother's own milk expressed and given to her child some other way;

3) The milk of another human mother; and at the bottom of the list:

4) Artificial milk feeds.

FORMULA can never do what breast milk does, and anyone who thinks it can, is kidding themselves.

Formula is solely a "survival food". Breast milk is much much, much, much more than "just" food.

So let's rephrase the issue and talk about the COSTS, both physical and financial, or FORMULA to the individual and the country.

It has been estimated that 70% of type 1 diabetes is formula induced and preventable. Think of the daily injections etc, maybe pig cell transplants, and all the secondary nasties like blindness, kidney failure, painful neuropathies, and leg amputations that ...... simply breastfeeding... could prevent.

Let's continue, but more briefly.  Any parent who chooses to formula feed their child risks NOT ONLY an increase in infant infections of all kinds; allergies; intestinal disorders; diabetes; obesity; mental health disorders; cancer; multiple sclerosis, bone disease, heart disease... and more besides.... 

BUT.........BY FEEDING FORMULA ... those children end up costing the country's taxpayers mega-bucks - ...... which I guess is fine, if everyone thinks that the taxpayer should foot that bill. We all know that diabetes in this current generation (many, if not most of whom were formula fed), is the new upcoming health "epidemic" but who realises that "formula" might be one factor to blame?

No-one in New Zealand, has bothered to quantify how many of today's chronic diseases can be laid at the door of formula advertising, but one Australian has, as has an American:  . 

In America in 2010 (Bartick): If 90% of parents exclusively breastfed for 6 months, EVERY YEAR USA would save .....

 $13 billion,  ...  911 preventable deaths, (most in infants). 

 If 80% of parents breastfed, EVERY YEAR USA would save $10.5 billion and 741 deaths.  

That's not small bickies.   Just a wee bit more than the Wall Street bail-out, right? 

So what's the equivalent cost to New Zealand taxpayers, past, present and future... for short and long term health problems?  You'd think someone would be interested in discussing this, or doing that equation, but it seems not. 

However, Peter Nobbs, every man and their dog in the media, wants to have the last word how irresponsible are the people who DO extend breast feed, but don't want to vaccinate their children.

Ten years ago, in 2002, a study was done in ACT Capital territory Australia, looking at the costs associated with gastrointestinal infections, respiratory infections, ear ache (otitis media), necrotising enterocolitis and eczema.  Just in those five categories ... (leaving aside all the really nasty equations like diabetes, allergies, autoimmune disorders etc)..... Breastfeeding was estimated to be able to save the state government $1 - 2 million per year. 

Now, add into that, a guestimate for preventable chronic diseases ignored.....   Just think what that figure would be in 2012. Blows the mind doesn't it? 

In 2010, a study was done which described how "improving breastfeeding rates have a potentially large impact on population health."  Exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months would not only hugely reduce chronic diseases to the individual for that individual's lifetime, and would be cost effective for the Australian Government. They did not put a figure on it though. 

Perhaps they were too scared, because the real cost of formula to society would be revealed for all to see.  Might that cost.... actually rival the damage that smoking does, in a completely different way?  ....Is that what doctors, the government and Fonterra are scared of? Not much point in selling New Zealand dairy farms to Chinese owners to ensure "safe" formula for chinese babies, if you admit that formula harms babies at a physiological level. 

The author talks about "the need to address workplace and cultural  barriers to avoid breastfeeding promotion imposing economic and other costs to women." 

There is no way we can even think about addressing workplace and cultural issues around breast milk, when the upper echelons of the paediatric community in New Zealand have no commitment to educating parents or organising breast milk banks, so that healthy screened mothers with milk to spare, can contribute to parents who cannot breastfeed for themselves,...but would like the CHOICE to provide their babies with BREAST MILK.

Are there any downsides to a breast milk bank?  Too right there are, which is why the emphasis on the word "cannot" breastfeed, rather than "will not". 

Firstly, breast milk is designed by the mother, for a specific child, with the mother's specific diet and genes, and..... for that specific age.  A mother of a premie baby will produce milk which has exceedingly high levels of exactly the nutrients and immune components, that say, a 10 week premie baby needs.  That baby needs THAT specific mother's breast milk - not someone else's.

Breast milk produced for a normal  one month old baby, has a different composition than breastmilk for a nine month old baby.

Medical researchers are constantly shaking their heads in puzzlement at just HOW breast milk modulates everything....to suit the requirements of THAT baby. 

It is as close to a scientific fact as you can get, to say, that a breastfed baby comes from a different "physiological world" than a formula-raised baby.

For all these reasons, every mother who can do what she is designed to do, and breastfeed, should know why she "should" breastfeed, in order to make an informed choice.  Paediatricians and politicians should be looking at facilitating a minimum of 90% of mother exclusively breastfeeding their OWN babies for a minimum of six months, providing the education and support required to make it happen.  But are they?

That is what the medical system does not explain to parents, or the media.

Nutritionally, genetically, immunologically - and in terms of the assisting with the challenges each baby faces, each mother SHOULD ideally, feed her own baby the food designed specifically for THAT baby. 

Breast milk banks should ONLY be for those who "CANNOT" breastfeed, not for those who "won't" breastfeed.  There is no room in this debate, for free-loaders who think it's their "right" to make maximum use of every "commodity" that Government has to offer.

And then there is the comment I heard from a formula feeding mother the other day.  "Oh, I wouldn't use stored breastmilk from another mother, because I read on internet that it can be cytotoxic!"

Except here's the bit she missed (emphasis mine) from her headline mouse-hunting:  "That said, we have unpublished findings (currently under review) suggesting that even after digestion, the week-old freezer-stored breast milk was considerably less cytotoxic than digested infant formula. So I'd say if my only choice was stored breast milk or formula, I'd go with the breast milk," Dr. Penn said."

Why won't the medical profession do the hard yards to promote breastfeeding? 

Paediatricians and politicians should be helping (not forcing!) a minimum of 90% of mothers to exclusively and healthily, breastfeed their OWN babies for a minimum of SIX months and providing them with extra nutritional education and support required, to make that happen.

Breast milk should also cost the equivalent of formula.

Obviously, running a breast milk service has considerable logistic and practical issues, but if third world countries can do it, why can't New Zealand?

The bigger picture that the media rhetoric has ignored, is both the "cost" of putting something artificial into a baby's body, which the baby is NOT genetically, nutritionally or immunologically designed to process, .... and the flow on effects of that into later life, which are now well described in the medical literature. 

Secondly, the media has ignored the real issue, which is that the medical profession does NOT tell mothers that actually there is another option, which has been initiated by breastfeeding mothers with human milk to spare

It seems that medical system doesn't like parent-led milk donor arrangements, because the initiative is not "controlled" by them.  It's considered "dangerous" because donor mothers "might be harbouring lots of diseases".  Wouldn't you think it there was concern, that the medical profession would initiate a breastmilk service they were prepared to endorse?

The public has not yet had spelled out to them, that artificial formula - while it allows a baby to grow and live, causes metabolic and immunological dysfunction in comparison to breastmilk, as well as different gene methylation.... resulting in harm in the form of allergy, acute and chronic illness, with later disability as a result. 

The public has not yet had spelled out to them, the health cost to them as individuals, families and future generations, or just how much tax-payer's money is, and will be required, to fund the treatment for the very long list of formula-induced, preventable health conditions.That total cost is huge.

IF EVERYONE knew the truth about breast milk, not only would parents make vastly more effort to succeed at breastfeeding, parents who couldn't breastfeed, and the media, might be demanding a nation-wide breast milk bank service, so that PARENTS could actually make the INFORMED CHOICE to BUY breast milk - INSTEAD OF formula.

Choice is only a real choice, when it's an informed choice.  And if, in the face of being fully informed, a mother choses to use artificial formula, then that's her right.  She and her child, will have to live with the consequences of that choice. 

That's the bigger picture.

 

 

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