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Breastfeeding Remains the Best Choice in a Polluted World

Mary Hurt
LLLI Public Relations Associate
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 5, October-November 2003, p. 101.

Breastfeeding remains the best option for feeding infants, even as attention is focused on the many chemicals that may find their way into a mother's body.

The four specimens often used to test levels of chemicals in the human body are urine, blood, hair and human milk. This monitoring is done to determine levels of environmental chemicals in different geographical areas. Any substances found in human milk because of this routine testing are a reflection of the exposure in all humans living in that particular area and not a statement about breastfeeding.

Scientific research shows consistently that even in a world exposed to so many chemicals, breastfeeding offers advantages which outweigh the risk of ingesting possible contaminants. Indeed, the benefits of breastfeeding which include high levels of antioxidants may prove to be essential to compensate for and outweigh the risks of toxic effects from the environment. Today the focus of scientific concerns is being directed toward removing potentially toxic chemicals from the environment while recognizing the value of human milk, the only source of optimal nutrition for infants.

A discussion of this topic is incomplete without pointing out the well-documented nutritional inadequacies and detrimental health consequences of artificial baby milk, which may be contaminated both as products of the same environment and through manufacturing. In addition, human milk, unlike manufactured formula, does not add to the ecological burden of the planet.

Human milk cannot be duplicated. It is a living, changing fluid which continually adapts to the needs of the developing infant. Professional research demonstrates that breastfed infants have significantly lower morbidity rates. In addition, studies show that breastfeeding offers significant immunologic, developmental and nutritional benefits.

La Leche League International's Center for Breastfeeding Information maintains the world's largest collection of studies on breastfeeding and human milk. For more information, go to

Last updated Monday, September 11, 2006 by njb.
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