Abreast of Good News

Families - August 16th, 2002
tokyoweekender_Diane Wiltshire

by Diane Wiltshire

Those of you who recall my passion for the art of breastfeed­ing may have already figured out the subject of today’s column. Breasts are once again in the news and it’s very good news, indeed, for breastfeeding mothers and their lucky babies. In case you missed the most recent headlines, here are some of the latest facts:

In a study published in the May 8 Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that infants breastfed for seven to nine months had higher IQs as adults than those breastfed for less than seven months, or their formula-fed counterparts.

The researchers evaluated more than 3,000 young adults in Copenhagen, Denmark, taking into account other factors that might contribute to the IQ increase. The scientists conclud­ed that duration of breastfeeding has long-term positive effects on cognitive and intellectual devel­opment.

As if the well-known health benefits together with this recently discovered intelligence boost weren’t enough to make any mom determined to nurse her offspring, just last month headlines proclaimed that breast­feeding prevents cancer, too. A landmark study, published in The Lancet medical journal, found that the number of children that women have and the length of time they breastfeed them are the most important factors influencing their chance of developing breast cancer, even more impor­tant than genetic factors.

Regardless of the number of children borne, researchers found that the risk of breast cancer dropped by 4.3 percent for every year the women breast-fed. Hopefully this news will encour­age women to nurse as long as their babies want, ideally at least a year, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization.

With all the evident advan­tages there are still many women who try but don’t succeed at breastfeeding; it turns out that this natural process doesn’t come naturally for many of us.

The most important factors to ensure a successful breastfeed­ing relationship are proper infor­mation and support, both of which can be found at La Leche League International, the world’s foremost authority on helping women nurse their babies. This non-profit organization provides encouragement and support through  monthly meetings, reaching more than 300,000 women each month in 63 coun­tries around the world.

Fortunately for English-speaking mothers in the Tokyo area, there is a local LLLI group which meets the second Friday of the month in Shibuya. This Tokyo Central group is the same one that I led many years ago when I first became a certified LLL leader after the birth of my second child.

I have fond memories of the friendships I made and the beau­tiful babies I met during my three years with that group. To find out more information, contact the current leaders: Iona at Tel/Fax 3425-2534 (iona @llljapan.com), or Aileen at Tel/Fax 3760-8381 (aileen@llljapan.com). For addi­tional information about LLL-Japan (both English-speaking and Japanese-speaking groups), go to Local Contacts under LLLI’s Website, www.lalecheleague.org.

When logging onto La Leche League’s Website, I am always impressed by their easily navigat­ed format, which provides a wealth of information for par­ents. The FAQ section contains helpful advice about every stage of the breastfeeding relationship as well as answers to the most up-to-date queries such as “I have pierced nipples, can I still breastfeed my baby?”

The extensive collection of articles and medical updates makes this a valuable database for breastfeeding mothers living overseas, far away from their family doctor or network of support.

This month thousands of breastfeeding families, support­ers and health care professionals around the world will participate in the 11th annual La Leche League International World Walk for Breastfeeding. Most walks are held in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, proclaimed by UNICEF, WHO and LLLI the first week in August, but walks will continue to be held globally through Sept. 15.

In addition to making com­munities aware of the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and children of the world, walkers take the opportunity to raise money to help LLLI fulfill its mis­sion of giving mother-to-mother support, education and encour­agement to all women who want to breastfeed their babies.

To find out about walks in your area, or to sponsor a walker, visit www.lalecheleague.org.