Studies have shown that breast-fed children do better at beating disease and have marginally higher IQs later in life. The revelations have fueled a boom in the United States, where breast-feeding is at a 20-year high.
Yet there are still stigmas. Angelina Jolie created a fuss recently (at least a fuss for some) with her photo of a partially exposed breast-feeding breast on the cover of W magazine.
Meanwhile, a new study of 7,000 children age 6-15 finds those breast fed for six months had much lower rates of asthma.
"Our research demonstrates that exclusive breast-feeding prevents the development of allergic diseases in children," said Mohammad Shamssain of the University of Sunderland. The work was presented at the European Respiratory Society in Berlin last week.
Further, breast-feeding for six months or longer is associated with a lower risk of some types of breast cancer for the mother, according to a study released in August by the American Cancer Society.
Yet in most studies, the benefits of breast-feeding are found to be relatively minor compared to other health factors. And breast-feeding is not for everyone. Some children don't take to it, and it may be impractical for some mothers (say, single moms working long hours). For some women in some cultures or towns, finding a place to do it without creating a fuss can be a challenge.
The excuse that it causes saggy breasts, however, doesn't hold up.
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