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Breastfeeding Benefits

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Recent studies about breast milk chemicals have ignited health scares -- but experts say nursing infants is still best.

Recent studies have found that certain environmental chemicals -- flame retardants, pesticides, and substances in plastics -- are present in small concentrations in many women's breast milk. While it sounds scary, experts say that nursing infants is still best. "Just because a chemical is found in human milk doesn't mean that it poses a health risk for breastfed babies," says Cheston M. Berlin, Jr., MD, a professor of pediatrics and pharmacology at Penn State Children's Hospital.

That's because there's no evidence that the amounts in the study participants' milk are dangerous. "Meanwhile, there's overwhelming evidence to confirm the benefits of breastfeeding, which include protection against conditions ranging from ear infections and allergies to cancer," says Dr. Berlin.

None of the recent studies refute these findings or the recommendation to breastfeed.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, May 2006.


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