Pregnant women and mothers of young children may be worrying about recurring news stories about umbilical-cord blood having 287 contaminants; that disturbing chemicals have been found in breast milk; and contaminants are showing up in human blood.
While these observations do call for us to work harder to reduce or eliminate pollution and discover what health effects may be in the packaging and additives in our food and drinks, some of the drama is because health advocates are competing for time in the media to get our attention.
Parents do need to be more vigilant about food safety and environmental issues today than in the past because our children are sp vulnerable to toxins, spoilage and accidental poisoning. We have learned that certain chemicals leaching from plastics and from non-stick cookware are no longer considered insignificant or safe. We have become more aware that our air, water and even soil can become polluted almost beyond redemption due to accidents, natural disasters, weather-related damage and other factors.
However, there are benefits to nursing babies that are related to the appropriateness and immune system boost of breast milk, as well as the motor planning, conditioning and other effects that are helpful in speech articulation and physical development. It may be that businesses that manufacture or sell formula, baby bottles and related items are better-funded advertisers than groups like La Leche League that promote breastfeeding.
Something else to consider is that formula or any other substitute for breast milk may be more contaminated with the same or worse pollutants, and manufacturing mistakes may cause unhealthy results, such as the formula many years ago that was missing a critical ingredient.
Mothers can follow simple guidelines for ensuring the best health and wellness in our children, knowing that in spite of the drawbacks to industrial civilizations, the benefits are impressive for our children with special needs as well as their siblings and mainstream peers. Providing organic food where possible and filtering tap water may be reassuring to us, but it is just as important to follow general health guidelines and finding medical providers we trust whose resources are articles published in peer reviewed publications.
Hopefully alarming news stories such as these will move us into the direction that Oprah often mentions via a quote from Maya Angelou - now that we know better, we can do better.
Browse at your local bookstore, public library, or online retailer for books about breastfeeding, the benefits of nursing, and children's health or
Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis by Sandra Steingraber, and: The Toxic Sandbox: The Truth About Environmental Toxins and Our Children's Health by Libby McDonald.
A benchmark investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in umbilical cord blood
Why Breastfeeding is Best for Babies and the Environment
La Leche League