"Breastfeeding should be actively promoted in all maternal and child health programs. Health experts worldwide agree that breastfeeding is the optimal way to nurture infants and should be practiced wherever possible...Human milk is a unique species-specific source of infant nutrition, (and) not only allows birth to occur at an early stage of development, but also requires a time of intense maternal-infant interaction to facilitate early behavioral development. Breastfeeding offers many important benefits for mothers, babies, and also for society...There is abundant evidence that human milk is designed to enhance optimally the growth, development, and well-being of the infant. A mother's milk provides the best protection for her infant against specific infections. This cannot be duplicated in infant formula..." These words are abstracted from the statement of former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop when he appeared before the Senate's Subcommittee on Nutrition in 1989.

During Koop's watch, The Report of the Surgeon General's Workshop on Breastfeeding and Human Lactation had been published in 1984, preceding the 1991 follow-up, (single copies are still available gratis from the National Maternal and Child Health Clearinghouse at the address given below.) The 1984 report was the first official national effort to promote breastfeeding in the United States. Strategies developed at the workshop are still in use as we move toward the breastfeeding objectives as set forth in Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives.

The second follow-up report from 1991 reflects the continued commitment of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to encourage breastfeeding. The report is intended to serve as a resource and reference for planning breastfeeding promotion programs, and for improving existing ones. The report should be ready and used by all health professionals engaged in pediatric work.

At the same time that the report on Breastfeeding and Human Lactation is requested, I suggest that another title be obtained: Symposium on Human Lactation, edited by Luch R. Waletzky, M.D. Although this symposium was held as early as 1976, it contains much that is still of value. It was issued at a time when there was an alarming worldwide decline in breastfeeding due to "poorly trained health professionals, ill-adapted health services, changing role of urban women, pressures from commercial advertising formula, and cultural attitudes in which the breasts are seen as having exclusively a sexual role." Participants in the symposium credited any breastfeeding promotional efforts to the dedication of voluntary women's breastfeeding groups (such as La Leche League), pediatric nutritionists working in developing countries, medical specialists who were discovering the importance of human milk, and the desire of some parents "to return to less technological care of the infant."

Participants in the symposium contributed excellent presentations on subjects that included the physiology of lactation; psychological, nutritional, and immunological aspects of lactation; drugs and chemicals found in breastmilk; and relactation. Despite the passage of nearly two decades since this symposium was held, much of the information is still valid. The work should be among the reference books in the personal library of health professionals.

(Reprint, Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients - Feb./March 1996 edition, Review by Beatrice Trum Hunter)

Second Follow-up Report:

The Surgeon General's Workshop on Breastfeeding and Human Lactation by Shelley Spisak, MHS and Susan Shapiro Gross, MPH, RD paperback, 191pp., references, appendices Published by the National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 1991 Single copies gratis available form National Maternal and Child Health Clearinghouse, 8201 Greensboro Dr. Suite 600, McLean, VA 22102

Copyright © 1996. The Light Party.

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