Is breast really best?

Is breast really best?

The debate over bottle or breast continues as two recent studies lend additional support for breastfeeding infants.

A study published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology suggests that babies who are exclusively breast-fed may tolerate new foods more easily due to the differences observed in the infants’ “gut bacteria.”

“It seems that introduction of solid food for babies who were only breast-fed was more tolerable,” Andrea Azcarate-Peril, senior study author, told Reuters. “Long-term studies are essential to confirm or not confirm these results.”

A second study from Dartmouth College shows that formula-fed infants had higher arsenic levels in their urine compared to breast-fed infants. The urinary arsenic levels in breast-fed infants was 7.5 times lower than formula-fed infants.

“This study’s results highlight that breastfeeding can reduce arsenic exposure even at the relatively low levels of arsenic typically experienced in the U.S.,” said professor Kathryn Cottingham, lead study author, in a statement.

Arsenic occurs naturally in bedrock and is a contaminant of well water. It has been linked to increased fetal mortality, decreased birth weight, and diminished cognitive function. For the majority of study participants, both the water and the formula powder contributed to the arsenic exposure, researchers said.

“I encourage all moms to strongly consider and try to breastfeed their babies if possible,” says Dr. Andrea Kane, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington, Ill. “Breast milk provides ideal nutrition for infants. It has the perfect mix of vitamins, proteins and fat. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea. Breastfeeding is thought to lower the child’s risk for diabetes, obesity and cancers.”

Seventy-nine percent of infants start off being breast-fed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 49 percent are being breastfed at six months.


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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.