New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof is traveling through Africa right now, reporting on malnutrition. Here’s an excerpt:
What if nutritionists came up with a miracle cure for childhood malnutrition? A protein-rich substance that doesn’t require refrigeration? One that is free and is available even in remote towns like this one in Niger where babies routinely die of hunger-related causes?
Impossible, you say? Actually, this miracle cure already exists. It’s breast milk.
When we think of global poverty, we sometimes assume that the challenges are so vast that any solutions must be extraordinarily complex and expensive. Well, some are. But almost nothing would do as much to fight starvation around the world as the ultimate low-tech solution: exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of life. That’s the strong recommendation of the World Health Organization.
The paradox is that while this seems so cheap and obvious — virtually instinctive — it’s also rare. Here in Niger, only 9 percent of babies get nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life, according to a 2007 national nutrition survey. At least that’s up from just 1 percent in 1998.
(In the United States, about 13 percent of babies are exclusively breast-fed for six months, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then again, most of the rest get formula, which is pretty safe in America.)…
The challenges with breast-feeding in poor countries are not the kinds that Western women face, and many women in the developing world continue nursing their babies for two years. The biggest problem is giving water or animal milk to babies, especially on hot days. Another is that mothers often doubt the value of colostrum, the first milk after childbirth (which is thick and yellowish and doesn’t look much like milk), and delay nursing for a day or two…
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This blog post was written by a friend. She writes about the home birth of her third child. Click here for the entire post. And here’s an excerpt:
Just past dawn she woke up moaning, lower back on fire and iron bands clenching and releasing in her core. Like an action-adventure movie, the telephone lit up and a control center was established: husband would take both oldest and youngest daughter on the much-anticipated, end-of-the-year field trip where his mother would meet them, freeing up husband to return to his wife. In the meanwhile, supermodel-friend and her nursing toddler would come stay with the laboring woman until the midwife came. The children came to kiss her goodbye. The three-year-old threw herself on her mother and clenched her fiercely, burying her sweet round face in the woman’s aching breasts as if laying claim to them for the last time. The five-year-old hung back shyly, feeling her mother’s discomfort but not understanding her place in it. When she kissed her, the woman saw the worry in the child’s almond eyes and cried for the first time since the pain began. Then they were gone, husband promising a swift return, and the woman was alone with the dog in the bright, hot, morning light. The sunlight was the type that burns into your memory, clear and bright and perfect like truth. The woman lay on the sun-drenched bed and gave in to the pain, feeling sorry for herself on this path she had chosen. Lying across her feet, the dog held her and reproached her with silent eyes.
Here’s an interesting study, highlighted in the New York Times today. It appears that prenatal vitamins, taken 3 months before becoming pregnant, and during pregnancy, can reduce the risk of autism:
A new study reports that mothers of children with autism and autism spectrum disorders were significantly less likely than mothers of children without autism to have taken prenatal vitamins three months before conception and in the first month of pregnancy. The finding, published in the July issue of the journal Epidemiology, suggests that taking vitamins in this period may help prevent these disorders, reducing the risk by some 40 percent.