Today in the morning news in Radio Denmark (DR2) a new report was announced. It shows that infants are not breastfed so long as the health authorities recommend (6+ mo.), and many mothers experience lactation problems. These findings were announced as a big health problem but may be it is opposite?
Human breast milk contains important nutrients, antibodies and other high-molecular ingredients, which especially in the first weeks can be absorbed by the infant. Breastfeeding also gives the mother and child improved social connection. Therefore, if the mother without trouble can produce sufficient milk, then breastfeeding is the preferable the first months of the childs life but not for 6+ months. Previous recommendations were only 3-4 months breastfeeding but the Danish health authorities follows the recommendation from WHO of a longer period of breastfeeding taking into account the difficult conditions in developing countries.
In the broadcast it was not mentioned that human breast milk contains considerable amount of harmful environmental chemicals such as PCB, dioxin and brominated flame retardants. That means that by nursing the infant relatively can have a 50 times higher daily food intake of such pollutants than adults.
A newborn has very little of these chemicals in the blood but after 3-4 months solely breastfeeding, the child will have the same concentrations of these chemicals in the blood as the mother, and if the breastfeeding continues then the child may get 2-5 times higher levels than the mother. This is illustrated in the figure:
Lactation is an efficient way for a woman to reduce her body burden of these carcinogenic POP chemicals, and a longer breastfeeding period results in a decreased risk for her regards cancer and heart diseases. In the same time, unfortunately, the child will have an increased risk of contracting such diseases later in life.
This post is also available in: Danish