Why breastfeeding is best, despite that Trump administration uproar

iStock_breastfeeding-3×2
Breastfeeding builds the baby’s immune system and protects against a variety of diseases and conditions, including diarrhea, respiratory tract infections and ear infections.

The Trump administration opposed a breastfeeding resolution that was widely considered noncontroversial, instead promoting the interests of baby formula makers, the New York Times reported Sunday.

Health officials and government representatives were flabbergasted in May when the U.S. delegation threatened trade measures in an effort to water down parts of the World Health Assembly resolution. It urged governments to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding,” and prevent false or misleading marketing of substitutes.

The latest example of the Trump administration’s affinity for corporate over public-health interests ultimately petered out; the Russians successfully introduced the resolution.

But the flap is an opportunity to recap a half-century of research showing why mother’s milk is superior to formula, both for baby and mom. (It’s also cheaper and more convenient for those 3 a.m. feedings.)

Breastfeeding builds the baby’s immune system and protects against a variety of diseases and conditions, including diarrhea, respiratory tract infections, ear infections, and necrotizing enterocolitis, a potentially devastating intestinal disease that mostly affects premature infants. Babies who nurse are also less likely to be overweight or obese as children.

Breastfeeding may halve the small risk that infants will develop eczema when they become teenagers, according to research published last year in JAMA Pediatrics. Other studies conclude that breastfeeding may cut a child’s risk of developing allergies and asthma.

And more benefits continue to be recognized. A recent report suggests that as little as two months of breastfeeding can reduce the risk of sudden infant death.

For moms, the advantages of nursing include reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancer, obesity, heart disease, and possibly, endometriosis. Nursing also enhances mother-baby bonding.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups recommend exclusive breastfeeding — no commercial baby formula — for about the first six months. But experts also stress that shorter commitments also yield rewards, and the best way to encourage women to persist is to be realistic.

“For any new mother, breastfeeding may not come intuitively or naturally, and it may require a lot of work. …We need to help mothers set realistic goals and provide education, support and care to reach those goals,” nurse researcher Diane L. Spatz, lactation program director at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, wrote in the American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing.