Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Decline In Breast Feeding Despite Benefits

Category: Child Care


Since 1984 there has been a steady decline in breast feeding. Exactly why is not certain. Perhaps it is because of a lack of publicity as we had through the '70's and early '80's. Certainly evidence continues to accumulate from study after study of the benefits of breast feeding.

Just recently a powerful study came out of the British Medical Journal showing a 12% increase in IQ in breast fed versus non-breast fed infants. This is probably the greatest motivator to date for parents to want to breast feed their children. As a pediatric allergist, I encourage every pregnant lady I see to breast feed because there is so much evidence that it helps to delay onset of allergies such as hay fever, asthma and eczema.

Breast feeding has been shown in numerous studies to decrease serious infections, particularly gastrointestinal infections which can require hospitalization because of dehydration. Also, breast feeding decreases onset and seriousness of common pediatric infections such as colds, ear infections and pneumonia.

I think most doctors and scientists are solidly convinced that breast feeding is superior to bottle feeding. We should all encourage new mothers, in every way possible, to breast feed. That means that employers need to understand. They should allow mothers who have to return to work soon to have a few breaks during the day to pump their breasts and collect and stored breast milk for their babies. It also may require some flexibility in the employee's work schedule. It certainly means understanding and moral support from spouses and extended family members and friends.

Let's all get behind breast feeding like we did in the '70's and reverse the trend of declining breast feeding so that we will have healthier and smarter children in the '90's and after the year 2,000.