Letter: Breast milk boost

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The report that breast milk reduces obesity (16 July), a rapidly growing health problem in the UK, in addition to its other wide- ranging benefits for both infant and mother, was welcome.

It balanced the coverage about pollutants in breast milk ("More than 350 pollutants found in breast milk", 11 July) which can leave many mothers uncertain of what to do. We must also be told who funded the research.

The Department of Health, which in May announced extra spending of pounds 1m to promote breastfeeding, has a major responsibility.

Will the department publicise that there are no safe, healthier alternatives to breast milk, breastfeeding produces quantifiable long-term health benefits and savings, breastfeeding is good for the environment (producing and consuming breast milk requires no land, no industrial processing or packaging, no fuel to heat or sterilise, no cleaning substances to clear up after), and that women's work of breastfeeding is an economic and social contribution, an integral part of caring for young children.

At the International Labour Organisation review of the Maternity Protection Convention in June 1999 the Government voted against statutory nursing breaks for mothers returning to waged work.

This contradicts its claims to promote breastfeeding and support women combining waged work and unwaged caring work.

If poisonous substances are reaching infants through their mothers' milk, this makes an overwhelming case to ban them in order to protect this most basic and essential food and health resource, and to protect the rest of us too.

SOLVEIG FRANCIS

JENNY HAUTMAN

International Women Count Network

London NW6

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