|Breast milk is
the most important (and often the only) source of nutrition for the
infant during the first few months of life.
Chemicals in breast milk largely stem from the mother’s stored body
burden of contaminants which are mainly from foods such as meat, fish and
are at the top of the food chain and therefore, there is concern that they
may receive close to an adult level dose at the beginning of their lives when
they are breast-fed. However, the
potential for health effects from contaminants in breast milk is not easily
determined mainly because it is
impossible to separate the effects from prenatal (via placenta) versus
postnatal (via breast milk) exposure.
studies of children whose mothers had measurable levels of PCBs in breast
milk, have found slight effects on neuromuscular development in the first 2
years, with development progressing normally after that. Others have observed cognitive and
behavioural problems but indicated that prolonged breast-feeding was linked
to improved memory and verbal scale test performance. Health studies of breastfed Inuit infants have
indicated an increased incidence of ear infections and “modest” compromise to
evaluation of the risks versus benefits of breastfeeding, it has been widely
acknowledged that the benefits from breast-feeding, for both infant and
mother, (including psychological, nutritional, immune and health protective
benefits) far outweigh the risks from exposure to breast milk
contaminants. Hence, virtually no
health researcher or practitioner would deny that “breast is best”.