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The area under discussion of breast feeding may perhaps not, at first, appear to be a contentious subject that is up for discussion. This is for the reason that an idealism of "breast is best" has been promoted all through the U.K and has the government as its motivating force. In 2005 the government announced plans to reinforce breast feeding promotion as well as protection. A food and health plan of action asserted that the healthy start programs or food scheme would be put into practice during 2006. This has since replaced milk tokens with a voucher that can be exchanged for a variety of healthy food (dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables etc). It does not sell infant formula from healthcare premises (Department of Health, 2007).
Since then there has been a steady increase on published materials stating that "breast is best". Expectant women are advised to breast feed and newly delivered women are encouraged to at least try it. Immovable breast milk advocates have warned that bottle fed babies do-not bond to their mothers as easily as breast fed babies. Many mothers in the contemporary society feel guilty concerning their habit of bottle feeding to their baby. The medical profession, the media, family and even strangers in the street all eulogize the benefit of breast feeding (Cassidy, 2009). However, the reality is that many mothers do-not breast feed and many of these claim to feel like a pariah and that they are somehow inferior if they opt for the bottle. Many claim that they do not get the support in hospital once they have chosen to bottle feed and because of this they feel they are "despised" by midwives. Mothers who choose to bottle feed feel neglected by midwives who are more interested in and pay more attention to mothers who are breast feeding. Many claim to feel like second rate citizens (Cassidy, 2009). Despite the drive to encourage mothers to breast feed, breast feeding initiation rates are among the lowest in Europe. Only 35% of U.K babies are being exclusively breast fed at one week, 21% at six weeks, 7% at four months and 3% at five months (Department of Health, 2007)
Experts insinuate that all mammals make and release milk from secretory glands, and infants have been breast fed since the beginning of humanity. Only since the 19th century has breast milk substitutes become available. Henri Nestle marketed an early breast milk substitute in the United States of America in 1867, but it was 1904 before the first formula milk reached the United Kingdom. Formula milk became popular during the second world war as it is thought it gave women more freedom to help with the war effort (Department of Health, 2007). Interestingly, a study carried out in 1949 found that as the rate of breast feeding declined so did the rate of infant mortality. In Bristol, for example, the breast feeding rate at three months fell from 76% in 1929 to 36% in 1949.
Moreover, during the same period the infant mortality rate fell from 60% to 26% (Anderson, Johnstone, & Remley, 1999). National dried baby milk remained on sale until 1976 when it was replaced by new modern style baby formulas. Until then dried baby milk was basically dried full cream milk with a few vitamin C and D supplements added. This change occurred following a report called "Present Day Practice in Infant Feeding" commissioned by Horne, Parslow, Ferens, Watts, and Adamson, (2004). Following this report new modern style baby formulas were launched which contained added vitamins and minerals. Today's formula milk is as close as it has ever been to breast milk.
Breast fed babies are more intelligent, have a lower risk of cot death and have immune systems that are better developed and are therefore less susceptible to bacterial and viral infections. In addition, breast fed babies are less likely to suffer from allergic diseases including eczema and asthma and more serious illnesses including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Breast milk is produced by mothers for their babies. The milk of the mother is a live matter which contains live white blood cells (WBCs) as well as substances of fighting immune and is a vibrant, changing dietary source, which on a daily basis (at times hourly) regulates to meet the personal needs of the growing baby (Vennemann, Bajanowski, Brinkmann, Jorch, Yücesan, Sauerland, Mitchell, 2009). Breast milk contains growth factors and hormones that assist a baby's development (Vennemann, Bajanowski, Brinkmann, Jorch, Yücesan, Sauerland, Mitchell, 2009).
In addition, breast milk also contains all the natural nutrients a baby needs to give him a healthy start in life (Chen & Rogan, 2004). Breast milk has been identified in several studies to be the only form of nutrition needed for the first six months of a baby's life containing nutritional value and immunity to certain diseases. (Chen & Rogan, 2004) States that breast feeding has many biochemical advantages; Colostrum which is delivered in the first three days of breast feeding transfers some of a mothers own disease preventing antibodies to the feeding infant and this may protect him against certain viruses".
Studies also report a lower risk of cot death in breast fed babies. Furthermore, a study published in pediatrics reported that babies who are breast fed have a 21% lower risk of death in their first year compared with babies never breast fed. The reduction in risk rises to 38% if babies are breast fed for three months or more (Rosin, 2009). Many researchers also claim that breast feeding helps a child's mental development as it has been shown that children who were breast fed were able to achieve more and had higher IQ scores than those given formula milk.
Furthermore, infants who were breast fed obtained a 3.16 point higher score for cognitive development compared with those who were formula fed. This claim was observed as early as six months of age and was sustained to fifteen years of age, the last time of reliable measure (Anderson, Johnstone, & Remley, 1999). Furthermore the researchers found that longer duration of breastfeeding was accompanied by greater differences in cognitive development between breast fed and formula fed children.
Breast milk has been proven on many occasions to be the best start in life a baby can get. It is packed with live white blood cells, contains all the necessary nutrients and with the exception of vitamin K contains all the vitamins a baby needs. It has also been claimed that breast feeding reduces cot death in infants through not containing any foreign products and also by boosting a baby's immune system which helps fight off infection. Breast milk transfers some of a mothers own antibodies on to her baby which helps the development of her baby's own immune system. It has been reported that breast feeding can also help protect a child from many allergies and illnesses including eczema, asthma, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to name but a few.
Breast milk has also been reported as helping to boost a child's mental capacity. Breast milk is free, it is ready available and it is always at the right temperature, it is the perfect convenience food. Furthermore breast milk is said to be a dynamic changing nutritional source which adjusts to meet the individual needs of a growing baby (Ford, Taylor, Mitchell et al., 1993).
- M.M. Vennemann, T. Bajanowski, B. Brinkmann, G. Jorch, K. Yücesan, C., Sauerland, E.A. Mitchell and the GeSID Study Group (2009). Does Breastfeeding Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?
- R S C Horne, P M Parslow, D Ferens, A-M Watts, T M Adamson, (2004) Comparison of evoked reusability in breast and formula fed infants
- Anderson, J.W, Johnstone, B.M, & Remley, D.T. (1999). 'Breast Feeding and Cognitive Development: a meta analysis'. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 70, No 4, p525-535
- Cassidy, R. (2009). 'The advantages of breast feeding'. Retrieved 3rd April, 2010 from http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Advantages-Of-Bottle-Feeding&id=274171
- Chen, A., & Rogan, W.J., (2004). 'Breast Feeding and the Risk of Post Neonatal Death in the United States'. Pediatrics: 113: p435-439. Retrieved 3rd April, 2010 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/113/5/e45
- Department of Health (2007). 'Infant Feeding Survey 2005'. p137 & 141. Retrieved 3rd April, 2010 from http://www.ic.nhs.uk/webfiles/publications/ifs06/2005%20Infant%20Feeding%20Survey%20 (final%20version).pdf
- Department of Health, (2007). 'Breast Feeding and the NHS Priorities and Planning Framework (2003-2006)'. Retrieved 3rd April, 2010 from http://22.214.171.124/custom?q=cache:QaXBkaVc0UoJ:www.haringey.nhs.uk/foi/foi_docs/7865_breast_feeding%2520policy.doc+breast+feeding+and+the+nhs+priorities+and+planning+framework&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&client=google-coop-np
- Department of Health and Social Security Committee on Medical Aspects of Food Policy (1974). 'Present Day Practices in Infant Feeding'. Retrieved 3rd April, 2010 from http://www.popline.org/docs/1422/743909.html
- Ford RP, Taylor BJ, Mitchell EA, et al., (1993) Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Int J Epidemiol; 22:885-890.
- Rosin, H., (2009). 'The Case Against Breast Feeding'. Cited in Celzic, M. (2009). 'Is Breast Feeding Really Best? Some women are questioning whether the health benefits are worth it'. (16th March). Retrieved 3rd April, 2010 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29718562/