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Mexico Finds Breast-Feeding Woes as Rate Drops

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Health Issues page and our Appetite For a Change page.

MEXICO CITY - Despite the well-known advantages to breast milk and vigorous campaigns around the world championing breast as best, Mexican mothers say the bottle is better.

In a dramatic decline over the past six years, today only one in seven mothers in Mexico breast-feeds exclusively in the first six months, the standard recommended by the World Health Organization. That leaves Mexico with nearly the lowest level of breast-feeding in Latin America.

Experts call it a public health crisis for a country where millions still live in extreme poverty, dirty water threatens the health of many families and education is poor. Mother's milk is richer in nutrients and antibodies that protect newborns from infections.

Mexico has the highest infant mortality rate among the world's 40 largest economies. Between 2005 and 2010, breast cancer deaths increased twice as fast as Mexico's female population, with some experts blaming declining rates of breast-feeding; studies show it cuts a woman's risk of cancer by 50 percent or more.

Officials blame an invasion of baby food ads, little regulation of formula companies and the failure of doctors to promote breast-feeding for an overreliance on formula.

"Mexico has become the example of what not to do. It's the strongest case of a setback in breast-feeding," said Marcos Arana Cedeno, a child nutrition expert and health adviser for the state of Chiapas.

Feeding newborns with breast milk can save lives in developing nations, where children have higher chances of dying from diarrhea and pneumonia. The WHO has recommended for the past decade that infants be given only breast milk for the first six months.

The percentage of Mexican moms who nurse their babies that long fell from 22 percent in 2006 to 14 percent last year, according to a Health Department survey.  


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