Return to breastfeeding urged amid China scandal

Tue Sep 30, 2008 2:14am EDT
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By Tan Ee Lyn

HONG KONG (Reuters) - China's contaminated milk products scandal, which have landed thousands of children in hospital in China this month with kidney illnesses, has reignited calls from medical experts for a return to breastfeeding.

Apart from expounding the various merits of breastmilk, they warned Asian countries, which have been consuming more dairy products in recent decades, of a possible rise in incidences of diseases like breast cancer and osteoporosis in the years ahead.

"Breastmilk has a lot of advantages for infants. It has antibodies and protects children from (gastrointestinal) infections like diarrhea," said Marie Tarrant, assistant professor of nursing studies at the University of Hong Kong.

"The baby grows more stably, is not overweight ... the nutritional content in breastmilk changes as the baby grows, unlike formula milk. Breastfed babies just take what they need, bottle-fed babies tend to be overfed."

Breastmilk has more carbohydrates, easily digestible protein, and the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that infants need.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization issued a statement last week calling for the return to breastmilk for infants.

"No infant formula contains the perfect combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to enhance infant growth and brain development as breastmilk does," they said.

Mary Lee, a mother of two boys in Singapore, said: "Breastfeed for as long as you can. Not just to provide life-nourishing food to your baby, but to create a life-giving bond with your child for the rest of your lives. I have been breastfeeding for seven years now."   Continued...