Does breastfeeding expose infants to toxic chemicals?

Does breastfeeding expose infants to toxic chemicals?

A Harvard study says yes!

Yes, you've heard us right. A recent study at Boston was covered by the esteemed Harvard. It is true that exclusive breastfeeding is highly encouraged for at least the first 6 months for the baby, but is it all happy and healthy or are there chances of damage as well?

Every new mother must have heard about eating certain food items to increase their lactation, that means things that we consume do have an impact on breastfeeding. Have we ever thought of the negative consumptions that hamper feeding?


Does breastfeeding expose infants to toxic chemicals?


The human body may give birth to antibodies to fight infection and breastmilk contains Immune molecules that naturally help your child to be safe from germs and infection.

But, a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and interference with immune function—perfluorinated alkylate substances, or PFASs—appear to build up in infants by 20%–30% for each month they’re breastfed, according to a new study co-authored by experts from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

It is the first study to show the extent to which PFASs are transferred to babies through breast milk and to quantify their levels over time.

“We knew that small amounts of PFAS can occur in breast milk, but our serial blood analyses now show a buildup in the infants, the longer they are breastfed,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at Harvard Chan School.

This study had first appeared online on August 20, 2015 in Environmental Science & Technology. Other study authors were from Danish universities and the Faroese Hospital System.

Does breastfeeding expose infants to toxic chemicals?

What are PFASs?

PFASs are used to make products resistant to water, grease, and stains. Since 60 years, this chemical is used in stain-proof textiles, waterproof clothing, some food packaging, paints, and lubricants, and are known to contaminate drinking water in the U.S. near various production facilities.

These compounds can stay for a long time in the body and are very commonly found in the blood of animals and humans worldwide.

How do PFASs harm?

PFASs have been linked with the reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption, and immune system dysfunction.

In the research, they found:

  1. In children who were exclusively breastfed, PFAS concentrations in the blood increased by roughly 20%–30% each month, with lower increases among children who were partially breastfed.
  2. In some cases, by the end of breastfeeding, children’s serum concentration levels of PFASs exceeded that of their mothers’.
  3. One type of PFAS—perfluorohexanesulfonate—did not increase with breastfeeding.
  4. After breastfeeding was stopped, concentrations of all of five types of PFASs decreased.

Post this experiment, it did suggest that PFAS are majorly exposed to infants through breastfeeding. But there are no reasons to discourage breastfeeding, The results suggest that breast milk is a major source of PFAS and expose children at a tender and vulnerable age.

How to Safely Breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is a must for every newborn until the first 6 months at least, and to ensure that your child gets the best out of it, you should keep a few things in mind.

  1. Always consume medications only after consulting a doctor and informing him that you are feeding.
  2. Avoid alcohol completely till you stop breastfeeding, as alcohol stays in the body for a longer time and if you really want to, at least keep a gap of 2-3 hours.
  3. Any food items that cause gas also should be avoided.
  4. Too much sugar or caffeine in your diet can also result in a sleepless or fussy baby. Make sure you consult your own doctor before taking any steps.

Also Read: Rujuta Diwekar recommends 9 desi super foods best suited for breastfeeding mums!

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