September 24th, 2012

Breastfeeding: Ounces of prevention

By Kate Long
The Charleston Gazette

At 25 of West Virginia’s 29 childbirth hospitals, when a mother goes home with her newborn baby, the hospital staff hands her a diaper bag full of baby formula—even if she is breastfeeding.

“We hate that,” said nurse Jamie Peden, breastfeeding consultant at Charleston Area Medical Center. “It turns the nursing staff into formula company marketing agents. It also makes mothers think the hospital is encouraging them to feed their babies formula when we’re not.”

Three years ago, to Peden’s relief, CAMC quit giving breastfeeding mothers bags of formula. Instead, they launched a campaign to encourage breastfeeding.

They had reason to do so. Twenty years of research confirms that breastfeeding lowers children’s risk of a long list of medical problems, from asthma, allergies and bronchitis to sudden infant death syndrome.

Babies who are breastfed are also less likely to be obese as children, research shows.

“We’re in the middle of a childhood obesity epidemic, and we’ve got strong evidence that formula-fed babies are more likely to become obese children, at greater risk of a wide range of sicknesses and illnesses,” said Dr. Jamie Jeffrey, director of CAMC’s Children’s Medicine Center. “Given that, it makes no sense to be giving nursing mothers bags of formula, does it?”

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