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HEALTH REPORT - A New Push for Breastfeeding in Developing Countries

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This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

We talked last week about a series of new studies of hunger in mothers and children in developing countries. The Lancet medical journal published the series. In it, researchers said poor nutrition in the first two years can permanently damage a child, physically and mentally.

One of the interventions they placed great importance on was breastfeeding.

Mothers at an event in Manila in May 2006 to bring attention to breastfeeding in the Philippines
Mothers at an event in Manila in May 2006 to bring attention to breastfeeding in the Philippines

The World Health Organization says babies should receive only breast milk for the first six months. On its Web site, the W.H.O. says breast milk is the ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants. And it notes that as part of the reproductive process, breastfeeding also has important health considerations for mothers.

Studies have shown that women who receive counseling about breastfeeding are more likely to feed their babies only breast milk for the first six months.

The La Leche League is an international organization that promotes breastfeeding. Jack Newman is a Canadian doctor who serves as a health adviser to the group. He has written and spoken widely on what he says are several mistaken beliefs that stop women from breastfeeding.

Many women think they will not produce enough milk to feed their baby. Doctor Newman says the large majority of women in fact produce more than enough milk to feed their babies.

Some women worry that breastfeeding will hurt. Again, Doctor Newman says this is not true. He says breasts can hurt a little in the first few days of nursing. But he says any pain beyond that would most likely be the result of incorrect breastfeeding or an infection.

Jack Newman says it is not uncommon for people to believe that baby formula is just as good as breast milk. But he says only a mother's body can produce the right levels of all the nutrition that a baby needs as these needs change. He also points out that unlike formula, breast milk contains infection-fighting antibodies -- and it's free.

Medical experts agree that, in general, breast milk is the best possible food for a new baby. But one problem with breastfeeding is that many new mothers are not sure how to do it correctly. We will talk about that next week.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Transcripts and MP3s of our reports are at www.unsv.com. I'm Pat Bodnar.

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