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Breast feeding

Translational Ecology
by Bill Schlesinger
Tue Jul 10th, 2018

“Who are those guys?”

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969

Perhaps I should not have been shocked on Sunday, when the New York Times reported that the United States had blocked a World Health Organization proposal to encourage breast feeding for infants.  The infant-formula industry wanted less breast feeding and the current administration was only too happy to oblige—even to threaten to withhold aid to other countries that supported the breast-feeding initiative.

Several studies show increased survival of infants who are breast-fed versus formula-fed, and lots of scientific evidence supports the advantages of breast milk in increasing an infant’s growth, immune response, even I.Q.  Breast feeding for at least six months after birth is widely recommended.

So why in a blog on environment, am I talking about breast feeding?   The Administration’s position on this issue is the latest salvo to ignore the science that might pertain to social and environmental issues. (See ).  Separately, this administration seems willing to overlook the scientific evidence that formaldehyde exposure is carcinogenic, that dichloromethane (a paint stripper) is toxic, and that breathing fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) raises the risk of heart-attack and stroke. If corporate profits are concerned, public health and environmental protection seem immaterial.

Certainly providing a low-risk environment for human health carries some costs, but if you or your child is one of those who avoid cancer or early death from a toxic environmental exposure, the benefit-to-cost ratio is tipped in your favor. One can only wonder if the current officials in Washington breathe the same air we do.

Let’s put humans first.


Belfort, M.B. and 7 others. 2016.  Breast milk feeding, brain development, and neurocognitive outcomes: A 7-year longitudinal study in infants born at less than 30 weeks gestation.  Journal of Pediatrics 177: 133-

Chen, A. and W.J. Rogan. 2004.  Breastfeeding and the risk of postneonatal death in the United States.  Pediatrics 113:

Dewey, K.G., J. Heinig, and L.A. Nommeenrivers. 1995.  Differences in morbidity between breast-fed and formula-fed infants.  Journal of Pediatrics 126: 696-702.

Gartner, L.M., and 6 others. 2005.  Breastfeeding and the use of human milk.  Pediatrics 115: 496-506.

Lucas, A., R. Morley, T.J. Cole, G. Lister, and C. Leesonpayne. 1992.  Breast-milk and the subsequent intelligence quotient in children born preterm.  Lancet 339: 261-264.