Thursday, April 13, 2006
For human infants, human breast milk is best

By Dr. Anthony Policastro
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital,
Medical director

One of the questions pediatricians frequently get is one about which formula is the best one. The answer is relatively easy. Breast milk is the best. Breast milk is made by a human mother for a human baby. Formulas come from cow's milk. Therefore, they work well for calves. They are not ideal for humans. Over the years, formulas have had a lot of changes in them. They have had adjustments to the protein concentration. They have had adjustments to the minerals. They have had adjustments to the vitamins. All the adjustments have done is to make them closer to human milk than they were before. One adjustment formulas could not make was the protection against infection that human milk provides. There are a variety of ingredients in breast milk that protect the infant from infection. Another adjustment is related to allergy. It is easier to be allergic to cow's milk protein than to a human protein. Therefore, we frequently see children develop allergies to cow's milk. Some parents like the fact that they can measure the amount of formula a child takes because they can see the ounces in the bottle. You can measure the amount of breast milk that a child gets too. You do this by weighing the child. All infants lose weight for the first few days of life. They then gain weight after that. Because it takes a few days for breast milk to come in, breast fed infants tend to lose weight a little longer. However, all infants are back to gaining weight by the time they come in for the two-week checkup. After that, infants gain weight at the rate of 1/2 to 1 ounce per day. Infants usually double their birth weight by five months of age. Thus a small infant at birth will gain less weight than a larger infant would. Breast fed infants usually receive vitamin supplementation. The major reason for this is related to vitamin D. The type of vitamin D present in breast milk is a different type of vitamin D than the one that is active for growing bones. Theoretically, the vitamin D in breast milk doesn't work that well. However, you wonder what it is doing there if it doesn't work. Breast fed infants usually receive iron supplementation. The major reason for this is that iron is present in small amount in breast milk. The iron that is present is very well absorbed. Once again this is a theoretical concern. Infants are born with a blood cell count that is high. This is to provide them proper oxygen levels before birth. Once they are born, they no longer need such high levels. Between birth and 8 weeks of age, the blood cell count drops in half. The body stores the extra iron from the broken down blood cells. That iron is then used to make new blood cells as the baby grows. Since the count is half of what it was at the start, there is enough iron there until the infant doubles his/her birth weight. That happens at five months of age. By that time, infants are beginning to start infant foods like cereal. Those foods contain iron. So the problem begins to take care of itself. There are many other advantages to breast milk. They are too complex for a brief summary like this. However, one thing is clear: Cow's milk is for calves. Mother's breast milk is for human infants.

Help with prescription program
A representative from the Delaware Prescription Assistance Program will be at the CHEER Community Center on Sand Hill Road, Georgetown, Tuesday, April 25, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The representative will offer education and outreach support to those needing assistance in understanding the new prescription drug program. For more information, call 854-9500.

Cancer support groups set for Rehoboth and Seaford
A long-term cancer survivor support group meets on the first Monday of the month at The Wellness Community-Delaware from 5:30 until 7 p.m. This program, facilitated by registered nurse Clare Wilson, focuses on meeting the needs of those people who are no longer in active treatment but are still emotionally affected by their experience with cancer. The Sussex facility is located at 19633 Blue Bird Lane, Suite 5, in Rehoboth directly behind the Crab Barn. In addition, The Wellness Community-Delaware is offering a support group for people affected by cancer and their loved ones at the Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, in Seaford. The group will meet at the Cancer Care Center, second floor conference room, beginning Thursday, April 20, from 5:30 until 7 p.m. Wilson will also be the facilitator of this group, which will continue to meet on the third Thursday on each month. The Wellness Community-Delaware is part of a national nonprofit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. Through participation in professionally led support groups, educational workshops and mind/body classes, people affected by cancer learn vital skills that enable them to regain control, reduce isolation and restore hope regardless of the stage of disease. All programs at The Wellness Community are free of charge. For more information or to register, call 227-1155.

Make sure that food served for holidays is kept safe
Whether it's a baked ham for Easter dinner or a brisket at a Passover Seder, food plays an important role in spring holiday traditions. But the foods that contribute to our enjoyment of the season can be a source of risk if food safety is disregarded, says Dr. Sue Snider, Cooperative Extension food safety specialist at the University of Delaware. Egg hunts are a common source of problems. If you plan to use real eggs, make sure you properly store the eggs before and after the hunt. "Most cases of food-borne illness are a result of incorrect methods of preparation and storage by the consumer," Snider says. "In the case of eggs, the shells contain a natural barrier to infection that is destroyed upon cooking or washing. That's why refrigeration is a must for Easter eggs." She advises consumers to hide eggs just before the hunt begins. "Make sure that eggs are not left unrefrigerated for more than two hours," says Snider. "And never hide an egg that is cracked, which invites bacterial contamination." As an alternative, Snider suggests using brightly colored plastic eggs and reserving the real eggs for in-home coloring and decorating projects. "Although they may not look especially appetizing with their blue polka-dotted or green-striped fa´┐Żades," Snider says, "dyed Easter eggs with shells intact can be kept refrigerated safely for up to a week." If you hollow out eggshells for decorating, such as for Ukrainian Easter eggs, exercise caution to avoid salmonella poisoning. "Use only eggs that have been kept refrigerated and are uncracked," advises Snider. "To destroy bacteria that may be present on the surface of the egg, wash it in hot water and then rinse in a solution of one teaspoon chlorine bleach per half cup of water." Easter eggs aren't the only food safety concern during the spring holiday season. Buffet-style meals are popular when large numbers of family and friends gather. "These meals must be orchestrated carefully to avoid the risk of food-borne illness, because foods that require refrigeration cannot be left out for more than two hours," Snider says. "Keep crushed ice under foods that need to be kept cool." Snider also recommends checking the label on the holiday ham bought for your buffet table. "Do not assume the ham is fully cooked. Check the label for cooking and storage information before serving," says Snider. For answers to food safety questions this spring holiday season, call the USDA's meat and poultry hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854).