We all know that ‘Breast is best’ right? Posters tell us, health professionals tell us, even the tin of formula says it (albeit in tiny writing). That message doesn’t work though, in part because it doesn’t tell us why, leading to most people agreeing that breast is best but that formula is absolutely fine. This means infant feeding research and support gets little investment as no one understands why it matters so much, or treats it seriously as they believe it is maternal background that makes a difference. Or they simply retain information from health promotion posters telling them that their baby will get a few less colds. As Maureen shows, this is overly simplistic and the impact of how we are fed in our early months goes far, far deeper than this.
This is the book that plugs the gap because it tells us WHY there are health differences between babies that are breast and formula fed. Not just vague ‘breast milk has immune properties in it’ statements but detail of how different milks affect the body. For example did you realise that the thymus is less than half the size in a baby who has been exclusively formula fed compared to a breastfed baby (with babies who have breast and formula milk somewhere in the middle?). Why does that matter? Because the thymus plays a critical role in the development of the immune system in early life. A smaller thymus has been implicated in the development of later immune system disorders. Our education and health literature might not tell us that, but things like this really matter – and should be common knowledge.
And this is just one fact. Maureen Minchin goes on to look at allergies, crying babies and much more. There are handy places where you can consider your family history and start to understand your own health. Even if you plan on never going near a baby but have an interest in medicine, health and how your body works, this will make a fascinating read.
This isn’t a quick read, but it is an essential one for those working in health services to support new families. We must increase understanding of how breastmilk protects babies and the impact formula milk can have and this book helps us do it. If you are a parent, and slightly overwhelmed by a giant book, have a look for the three kindle downloads Maureen has created which are inexpensive and broken into sections specific to issues you might be having with your baby.