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Side Effects of Not Breastfeeding Newborns
By the year 2000, the US Department of Health and Human Services wants 75% of new mothers
to initiate breastfeeding.
The lofty goal is unlikely. Data from 1996 indicate only 58% of American moms
breastfeed their newborns, says Karin Cadwell, Ph.D. The number of women who don't
breastfeed is troubling, given the wide range of benefits to mothers and infants, said the
faculty member of the
Healthy Children 2000 Project and director of Baby-Friendly USA, the organization that
implements the UNICEF Baby-Friendly hospital initiative in the United States.
Maternal benefits of breastfeeding include an earlier return to prepregnant weight,
delayed resumption of ovulation with increased child spacing, improved bone
remineralization postpartum, reduced risk of ovarian cancer, and a reduced risk of
premenopausal breast cancer, said Dr. Cadwell, who
is also a registered nurse.
The disadvantages to infants, children, and adults of not being breastfed include:
Gastrointestinal Illness At least 400 infants die annually in
the United States from diarrheal disease; an estimated 250-300 of these deaths are
attributed to not being breastfed. Other gastrointestinal disorders such as
Crohn's disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and celiac are minimized in
people who were breastfed.
Respiratory Illness. Between 500 and 600 infants die annually in the
United States from acute respiratory disease attributed to not being breastfed. The risk
of fatal or nonfatal respiratory infections is two- to fivefold higher among
formula fed infants.
Otitis Media occurs more frequently in infants who are not breastfed.
Bacteremia and Meningitis There is a fourfold higher risk of bacteremia and
meningitis among babies who are not breast-fed.
Juvenile Diabetes More than 100 studies indicate that
breast-feeding can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes in children said Dr
Malignant Lymphomas A six- to eightfold increase in the risk for
developing lymphomas among children younger than 15 years has been found in children who
were not breastfed for at least 6 months.
Breast Cancer Having been breastfed as a child reduces breast
cancer risk in women over 40 by more than 25%.
Pediatric News 33(1):37, 1999
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