The news that breast milk is the best milk for the new born babies may not be a new one but from time to time new revelations by nutritionists and health experts reinforce this belief more than ever. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) may not be a common disease and most people must be unaware of this crippling disease that kills thousands of children, especially premature babies every year. While NEC has been thoroughly studied in the US and deaths due to this disorder are well documented, it is in the third world where child mortality is considered high reasons for their death are not well documented. It is recently that international agencies have put India on top of the list of nations with highest first day deaths among the newly born babies! Now that NEC has been studied and the reason behind it known, breast milk emerges as the single most effective intervention mode to save such threatened babies. Scientists seem to have found the scientific reason for breast milk to be effective in counteracting NEC opening up doors for new treatment regime for these children. Here is a take on this new development.
"When little Georgia Cullen was born four months early last February, she weighed less than two pounds. Her doctors supplemented her mother Julie's breast milk with formula to help her grow, and she did. But last March, Georgia developed a dangerous and potentially deadly intestinal infection. "Her stomach started to swell up," says her father, Jim Cullen, of Erie, Pa. She was flown by helicopter to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "To have your daughter born early is scary. She was doing so well up to that point, so it was even scarier." Georgia pulled through, but lost much of her intestine to the infection. Now the surgeon who operated on her thinks he's helped find a compound in human breast milk that may prevent that complication. Her condition, called necrotizing enterocolitis, is an immune system overreaction that kills thousands of premature babies every year. "Breast milk for many years has been known to protect against this disease," says Dr. David Hackam, who treated Georgia. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC for short) affects about 25,000 babies a year in the United States, according to the American Pediatric Surgical Association. The risk goes way up for babies born weighing less than three pounds, 1,500 grams. Anywhere between 20 percent and 30 percent of them die, according to a 2009 study in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery".
Baby food formula being churned out by the multi billion infant food manufacturing industry often claim, though subtly, that their products are equivalent to natural breast milk! But health experts categorically assert that the same can never be a substitute for normal growth for normal children of normal parents. It is because of relentless consumer pressure and government push that they are declaring on the label that "breast milk is the best milk", though reluctantly, and consumer has a chance to know about the reality. Now that the unique chemical present in breast milk that is responsible for preventing disorders like NEC and ensure baby's gut health has been identified, will the industry rush to modify the current crops of infant foods to include this chemical also? But whether such modified formula can still be as effective as natural breast milk is a million dollar question. Safety authorities must be careful in granting clearance to such products to protect children from unanticipated side effects which may be caused by including a chemical like Sodium Nitrate in a baby food formula.