Medical Director Speaks Up for Value of Breastfeeding

Huntington Hospital’s medical director is speaking up for the advantages of breastfeeding on the longterm health of babies.

Breastfeeding has been in the news lately after a debate at the World Health Organization over the marketing of alternative feeding methods. The New York Times reported that a dispute had occurred over whether to limit misleading claims about alternatives.

Interviewed last week, Dr. Michael Grosso said, “In very recent times, the influence of breast milk on health in infancy and long period of time after is a little better understood because of the discovery of the microbiome which is the garden of bacteria that populate the infants intestinal system which appears to have a profound effect on health.”

Grosso said, “I will say that any assertion that the current issue is about access to formula seems to be pretty much beside the point. The actions of the World Health Organization assembly address only the issue of marketing. Their purpose is to do what health experts have been doing in the US—working to assure the right kind of messaging and info goes to the community so mothers can make most informed choices.”

The feeding method matters, Grosso said, because breastfeeding seems to have an impact on the development of allergies and immunity and a variety of other issues.

Multiple organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control,  have for years promoted breastfeeding to optimize nutrition.

“Formula feeding is associated with a significant increase of infections, including middle-ear infections, diarrhea with dehydration, increases in the rate of asthma, childhood obesity, diabetes and SIDS,” Grosso said. SIDS is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

“The current controversy in developing countries is because without a secure, clean water supply, the use of formula creates a significant health risk to already compromised infants. There  can be a significant death toll in those settings,” Grosso said.

“I think that most mothers understand that health experts recommend breast feeding. In a community like ours, the biggest challenge has to do with the successful initiation of breastfeeding and the most important message is that successful initiation requires that for a period of time, the first days and weeks, that infant receive only breast feeding unless there’s a medical reason,” he said. Infants who receive mix frequently fail to establish a breast feeding habit.

Huntington Hospital has lactation specialists on staff, several nurse practitioners and registered nurses with a special certification in lactation, and pediatricians and obstetrics/gynecology doctors are trained on advising mothers how to feed their newborns.

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