Director, Emergency Services, Bikur Cholim Hospital
I have spoken about this subject before but the definitive
document just came out, and I would like to highlight the
salient points. Another reason to present this information is
the proliferation of physicians in Israel that bemoan this
practice. What practice? Nursing our children.
A recent article in the Israeli Medical Association
Journal has 2/3 of women nursing at first, while after
three months only 24 percent are still nursing.
The article I am referring to is a policy statement in the
journal called Pediatrics, from Feb. 2005. It is
endorsed by the American Association of Pediatrics. They
start out with the complicated statement that human milk is
species specific and therefore superior to all other foods.
What that means is that human milk is designed for humans, so
for sure is more worthwhile.
Let us look closely into the benefits that have been proven
in research. There is a lesser chance of infectious diseases
in nursed infants including meningitis, diarrhea, urinary
tract infections, and respiratory tract infections. There is
less infant mortality — a reduction of 21 percent
— less diabetes, obesity, cholesterol problems, asthma
and certain cancers. It also makes these kids smarter,
although these numbers are small.
Nursing calms children enough so that they feel less pain
during painful procedures.
Benefits to moms include less bleeding and faster return to
previous weight, less osteoporosis, less risk of breast and
ovarian cancer, fewer hip fractures.
Are there any times one should not nurse? Infection is not a
reason! Mothers with drug abuse problems, with TB, getting
chemotherapy or radiation or who have AIDs. But this is not
the case with most women.
Hepatitis is not a reason to stop. Most children with
jaundice — yellow skin — can be nursed.
Children one hour old can already nurse, and the mother is
the best heat source for the newborn.
Here is an important point: Exclusive nursing provides enough
for growth and development for the first six months of life.
So do not let the doctor tell you to stop because the baby is
not gaining enough weight. Even in hot climates, like Israel,
water and juice are unnecessary for nursed children.
The recommendation is to continue nursing for the first year,
and then as long as wanted. There is no damage from
continuing even beyond three years. These children will still
be well adjusted. They do recommend that supplementation of
vitamin K and D may be necessary. I am not sure why vitamin K
is needed, but it would seem to me that since sunlight
contributes vitamin D to the body and we get plenty of that
here in Israel, that it would not be necessary.
They are against encouragement to use formula such as perks
given upon discharge from the hospital (coupons and the
like). Separation of mother and baby is frowned upon.
Further information should be obtained from your local
chapter of the LaLeche League. Write me in care of the
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