CBS News did a wonderful segment that shows just how critical human milk is to premature infants. Kudos to CBS for raising awareness of this important issue. The video and accompanying article explain that only “45% of premature babies are going home on breastmilk, as compared to 74% of full-term babies”, marvel at the unknown powers of human milk, and emphasize the increased risk of deadly necrotizing enterocolitis in babies that are not breastfed. At the UC Medical Center in San Diego, rates of necrotizing enterocolitis dropped from 5.8% to less than 1% after preemies started routinely receiving human milk.
First, let me argue with the statistic a little bit. While 74% of babies initiate breastfeeding in the hospital, it is not true that 74% go home on breastmilk. In fact, because hospitals have been shown to perform poorly on breastfeeding support, at some hospitals, only half that number is still breastfeeding at all at discharge, and the percentage that is exclusively breastfeeding is much lower. So, along with great media coverage of hospitals that are moving in the right direction, we need more media coverage of the hospital practices that are still sabotaging breastfeeding.
It would also be great if the media could shed some light on why the March of Dimes’ March for Babies, whose mission is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature births, and infant mortality, is being sponsored by Mead Johnson Nutritionals, makers of Enfamil, a brand of infant formula. Doesn’t this seem like a horrible conflict of interest? What message does that send?
And don’t tell me that March of Dimes is not aware. Promom.org organized a letter-writing campaign back in 2005. If CBS News or 60 minutes could do a little story on that, then I’d be really impressed!