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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Studies show fewer low-income moms breastfeeding babies

CECELIA ZWICK SEES IT over and over. A new mom promises to breastfeed her baby – but only for six weeks. Six months or a year later, the mom is still feeding baby with her own milk.

“They find it’s easier to pick them up and put them to breast,” said Zwick, a lactation consultant with Inland Northwest Health Services. “They can breastfeed baby and sit there and read. They find it’s a lot more convenient for them, and they’re more comfortable with it.”

But a new analysis of seven studies found that low-income women are more than 25 percent less likely to breastfeed than women who earn more money. Teach those women how to breastfeed and about its benefits, however, and they’re more likely to try it.

In the United States, breastfeeding is often taught in a formal, lecture style to large groups, the analysis’ co-author, M.J. Renfrew, head of the Mother and Infant Research Unit at the University of York in England, found.

But the analysis found that women learn best in informal, interactive discussion groups. In the past, expectant mothers learned to breastfeed from their mothers or by watching other women do so successfully. That kind of casual mentoring is slipping away, the analysis found.

Zwick’s experiences mirror the analysis’ findings. The more hands-on and low-key the training, the more successful the breastfeeding, she said. And that training is more important than ever now that family members are spread farther apart.

“We’re a much more mobile culture,” Zwick said. “You don’t have that same support there that you had in the ‘60s and ‘70s.”

Educating women before the baby is born is the best way to ensure breastfeeding success, she said.

Zwick said low-income women often turn to formula feeding because they’re given free products.

The analysis found that 25 percent of American women stop breastfeeding within two weeks of starting, but that there’s evidence that more women in the United States are starting to breastfeed.

The analysis appears in the most recent issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research.

Fewer teen pregnancies

It seems the motherhood news keeps rolling in.

And in this case, it’s rolling downhill.

The teen pregnancy rate in Washington has dropped to its lowest rate in more than 20 years, the Washington state Department of Health found in a new report.

The number of pregnancies per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 was 53.2 in 2003, the year the information was gathered. That’s the lowest level since 1980 when reporting first began and the rate was 95.4.

The number is even lower in Spokane County, where there were 49.2 pregnancies per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds in 2003.

The state figure has been dropping since a peak in 1989, when there were 96 births per 1,000 girls.

Also on the decline is the abortion rate, according to the report, which is titled “Pregnancy and Induced Abortions Statistics, 2003.” For 15- to 19-year-olds, there were 21.5 abortions per 1,000 pregnancies – or about half the 1980 rate. Again, the number was even lower in Spokane County where there were 17 abortions for every 1,000 pregnancies among 15- to 19-year-olds.

Help youths MOVE on

A new program is seeking volunteer mentors to help youths with disabilities transition after high school.

Project MOVE (Mentoring Opportunities for Vocation and Education) connects 16- to 21-year-olds who are headed to jobs or college with adults who can link them with resources to succeed.

“There’s a significant challenge for youths (with disabilities) as they graduate to have adequate resources and services that support them,” Project MOVE coordinator Tanya Riordan said. “This program is meant to fulfill that gap as they’re graduating.”

In Spokane County, about 11 percent of that age group, or 7,600 individuals, reported having a disability, and statewide nearly 39 percent of disabled youths live below the federal poverty level, she said.

An open house for prospective mentors and mentees will be held Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Coffee House, 1231 N. Washington St. To RSVP or ask questions, call 444-3088 ext. 204 or e-mail Riordan at tanyar@hipspokane.org.

The program is organized by the Health Improvement Partnership, soon to be called Community-Minded Enterprises, and is funded by a $300,000 federal grant.

Another setback for MS patients

A fourth patient may have contracted a deadly disease after taking the multiple sclerosis drug Tysabri, The Boston Globe reported last week.

The Spokesman-Review reported in March on the hope many local multiple sclerosis patients had for Tysabri, which was released late last year.

Multiple sclerosis causes the body’s immune system to attack nerve tissue, resulting in speech defects, loss of muscular coordination, fatigue and other symptoms.

There was promising evidence that Tysabri could freeze the disease in its tracks, but its manufacturer yanked it off the shelves in February after one patient taking it died and another contracted the same rare brain disease.

Since then, a third patient died from the disease and the fourth person, reportedly a 48-year-old woman, is said to have contracted it.

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