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Blog Archive

Health Protection

August 2014

September is ‘Childhood Cancer Awareness Month’, ‘Blood Cancer Awareness Month’, ‘Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month’, ‘National Cholesterol Awareness Month’ and ‘National Food Safety Education Month’ as well as several more! Do you know which of these issues is affected by the choice of newborn feeding method?

Following on from August’s World Breastfeeding Week, let's look to see what the ‘awareness’ topics are for September. The earliest nutrition given in childhood influences the onset of many disease states.

In Step 3 the effects of first diet on infants is to be discussed with mothers prior to 32 weeks gestation. This is an ideal time to give parents all the facts about conditions caused by infant formula. Discussing issues such as these ‘before it matters’, ie before they have enacted one feeding method or the other, is a lot less threatening as you are not challenging a decision they have enacted. If your hospital holds pre-conception classes for couples these, too, would be ideal for you to ask to contribute to.

I digress - September is ‘Childhood Cancer Awareness Month’, ‘Blood Cancer Awareness Month’, ‘Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month’, ‘National Cholesterol Awareness Month’ and ‘National Food Safety Education Month’ as well as several more! The choice of newborn feeding method affects all of these issues. The cancers acquired in childhood, Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins lymphomas, neuroblastomas and rhabdomyosarcoma have all been shown to be significantly more common in formula-fed infants. The blood cancer acute lymphoblastic leukemia is directly linked to formula feeding. High cholesterol levels in adulthood are markedly more common in those who were formula-fed. Mothers get a look-in this month too with those mothers who formula-fed having a significantly higher incidence of ovarian cancer. And food safety is so much easier when there’s no preparation or handling involved!

Some health professionals baulk at discussing such topics with parents, not wishing to ‘pressure’ or frighten them. This is just another health issue like smoking or alcohol use during pregnancy, car restraints, vaccinations, etc. It’s important that parents receive all the information available so they can make an informed decision about infant feeding - that’s what Step 3 is all about.

Rather than try to organize your own ‘awareness’ of each of these issues, you might like to speak to the staff on the pediatric, blood dyscrasia and gynecology units and encourage them to create an awareness event to which you could provide information about the very first preventive measure that can be taken. I’m sure you’ll be educating those staff too!

You’ll find the references to the disease states I’ve listed in the ES01, as well as the excellent article about ‘causing guilt’ that every health professional should read.


Denise Fisher, AM, MMP, IBCLC
Director, Step2 Education
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