Benefits Of Breastfeeding Outweigh Risk Of Infant Exposure To Environmental Chemicals

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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A study comparing breastfed and formula fed infants across time showed that the known beneficial effects of breastfeeding are greater than the potential risks associated with infant exposure to chemicals such as dioxins that may be present in breastmilk, according to a report published in the December issue of Breastfeeding Medicine, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. and the official journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

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This compelling study, entitled "The Heart of the Matter on Breastmilk and Environmental Chemicals: Essential Points for Health Care Providers and New Parents," encompassed an historical review of the medical literature and included time periods when levels of environmental chemicals were higher than they tend to be at present.

The authors of the report, Judy LaKind, PhD (LaKind Associates, Catonsville, MD), Cheston Berlin, Jr, MD (The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, PA), and CAPT Donald Mattison, MD (National Institutes of Health), advise health care providers to continue to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies. In agreement with the World Health Organization's (WHO's) continuing support of breastfeeding, this study's findings, based on epidemiologic data, do not downplay the adverse effects of exposure to dioxins and other environmental toxins. However, the authors distinguish between the statistical significance of risk/benefit assessments in an individual compared to population effects.

"When breastmilk was chosen by regulatory agencies as a handy medium for measuring environmental toxins, the public became alarmed that breast milk was contaminated. The authors, eminent authorities on the subject have put these fears to rest," says Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, from the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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