The health benefits of nursing infants are well documented and have been widely known for decades. Recently, however, researchers have been targeting the benefits of “liquid gold,” as it has been coined, for adults. Consuming just a few ounces of breast milk each day, for example, has been suggested to help fight infection, improve immune-system function, increase intelligence, and combat obesity.
According to a recent study out of Lund University and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden a substance found in breast milk has been linked to killing cancer cells. In the study, researchers concluded thatHAMLET (human a-lactalbumin made lethal to tumor cells) works by binding and “altering the morphology of the [cancer] membrane and compromises its integrity, suggesting that membrane perturbation could be an initial step in inducing cell death.” If confirmed by future studies, HAMLET could be the next wave in the fight against cancer and could revolutionize how cancer patients are treated.
The trend to feeding adults breast milk is growing. Mothers’ Milk Bank of San Jose is one of six in the United States to offer breast milk to adults with cancer and other serious illnesses. It distributes donated breast milk primarily to premature and low-birth-weight babies; however, it also will provide breast milk to adults with a doctor’s prescription. Still not accepted as socially acceptable in the U.S., adults drinking breast milk is growing in European and Asian countries where breast milk items are becoming more commonly see in restaurant menus.
Formula is Big Business
Ranked #5 in a list of America’s Most Profitable Products, Mead Johnson Nutrition Company’s infant formula Enfamil profited more than $2.3 billion in 2012. Yahoo! Finance analysts suspect that the formula brand’s operating margin to be at 24 percent helping it outrank American cash cows such as Folgers and Garmin nüvi.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Breastfeeding initiation increased from 74.6 percent in 2008 to 76.9 percent in 2009 births. This improvement in initiation represents the largest annual increase over the previous decade. Breastfeeding at 6 months increased from 44.3 percent to 47.2 percent; breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 23.8 percent to 25.5 percent.
As breastfeeding rates continue to rise in the U.S. we see more companies like Mead Johnson targeting middle to low-income families in infant formula campaigns. Although breast milk is indisputably better for a baby’s health, formula has been associated with social status. Consequently, in the U.S. it has been reported that poorer households are less likely to initiate and continue breastfeeding through common obstacles because WIC and other low-income assistance programs offer formula for free or give their clients coupons that make formula “affordable.”
This trend has gone global. In fact, Big Business is specifically marketing to impoverished mothers in Asia and is convincing women that breast milk is not sufficient for their babies. For example, inthe slums of Jakarta, Indonesia – it is reported that many poor families mix formula with contaminated water and spend money they can ill-afford on breast milk substitutes.
A Look at Asia
Being 50 years behind the U.S. in Big Business formula campaigning, most of Asian infants were predominantly nursed from birth to two or three years old. With strategic marketing, the shift away from this natural diet has come at a high cost. Once generally considered a Western condition, more Asian babies are now suffering from gastrointestinal issues and ill health. To reverse this sad trend mothers need to nurse.
Do the Right Thing
Experts recommend at least six months of exclusive breastfeeding for infants. Many major U.S. companies offer breastfeeding rooms for their workers to pump and support groups like La Leche groups are not only in every major city in the U.S., but abound in smaller towns and communities. In addition to the benefits Moms experience – like losing baby-weight/burning calories, emotional bonding with baby, and curbing post-partum depression – breastfeeding is the right choice for baby and should be implemented for as long as possible.
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