Surgeon General Says Breast-Feeding "Alarmingly Low"

Hospitals, physicians are urged to educate new parents on the benefits

WASHINGTON--A new government report is calling for increased awareness of the benefits of feeding babies breast milk, according to a recent report by the Associated Press.

The surgeon general is calling for new policies to ensure that parents are routinely told why breast-feeding is healthy, that hospitals improve teaching of techniques to help new mothers, and that workplaces become better equipped to handle breast-feeding mothers.

According to Dr. Yvonne Bronner of Morgan State University, "the culture of breast-feeding has been lost, especially in the low-income African-American community." Bronner is creating an education and peer-counseling project to counterbalance the racial disparity.

About 64% of U.S. women breast-feed during their infants' first month of life. However, Surgeon General David Satcher released a report last week stating that only 29% of all mothers and only 19% of black mothers continue to feed their babies breast milk until the infants are at least six months of age.

Studies have shown that babies fed breast-milk suffer fewer illnesses such as diarrhea, earache, pneumonia and other infections. Studies have also suggested that breast-feeding may reduce risks of asthma, diabetes, childhood cancers and can help brains develop faster. Mothers can lose pregnancy weight-gains as well, and long-term feeding may lower the risk of developing breast cancer.