THE BREAST, A MARVEL IN PREVENTION
If a new drug suddenly became available that could prevent a million or more child deaths a year, was free and tasted great, there would be an immediate public health imperative. That "drug" is breast milk.
Breast-feeding can postpone fertility and prevent ovarian and premenopausal breast cancer, prevent sepsis, as well as gut, chest, ear and urinary tract infections, is valuable in the management of both acute and persistent diarrhea, and prevents many disease conditions associated with artificial feeding such as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and multiple sclerosis. Bottle-feeding contributes to dental decay and malocclusion and decreases intellectual development, immunity, endocrine balance and much more.
In countries with a high infant mortality rate, artificially fed infants are at least 14 times more likely to die from diarrhea than are breast-fed children, and four times more likely to die of pneumonia. Artificially-fed infants require hospital treatment up to five times more often then those fully or partly breast-fed. In France alone, the cost of this extra and unnecessary medical care is estimated at $199 million dollars a year.
While exclusive breast-feeding for at least four to six months and even longer is advisable, breast-feeding for a few weeks, even partially, is beneficial over not doing it at all. Some mothers are uncertain, some may want to breast-feed but find it difficult, and others may have had a previous bad experience. New mothers need help doing what is right, not cold assurance that failure doesn't matter and there is a perfectly good substitute in a bottle or can on the grocery shelf.
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