Trouble breastfeeding? Dioxins may be to blame

Thankfully, I never had trouble producing enough milk with either of my own kids (now 2 and 5), but I have known a surprising number of women (among the 3-6 million women worldwide) who have had to give up breastfeeding because they failed to produce enough milk. And some part of me always wondered: Was it a lack of trying? The fact that breast feeding can be surprisingly painful at first? But a recent study conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center points to another potential culprit: dioxins.

Dioxins are byproducts of plastics, often leached into the environment through waste incineration. The toxins settle on crops and pastureland where they become part of our food chain. They become concentrated in fats, so you're most likely to get a hefty dose in meats, dairy products, and shellfish. There are also traces of dioxins in tampons. The new animal-based research showed that exposure to dioxins hampered normal breast cell development during pregnancy. Dioxin also interfered with milk-producing genes.

What can you do? If you're pregnant, switch to low- or nonfat milk and limit fatty cheeses. You may also want to do some research about where your meat comes from. Raised on grass pastureland far from city pollution? That would be nice, but might be hard to track. While it is no guarantee that you aren't getting dioxins, buying organic dairy and meat ensures that you are not getting high doses of pesticides, which may also interrupt hormones.

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