The evidence just keeps mounting that breast-feeding a newborn, even over the short term, provides some benefits that can't be gained in any other way, according to a pair of experts who fielded calls Saturday during the Deseret News/ Intermountain Healthcare Hotline.

Short-term means at least the first three months of a baby's life, according to Dr. Peter Lindgren, a pediatrician in Intermountain's Memorial Clinic in Salt Lake City.

Tracy Karp, neonatal nurse practitioner at Intermountain Medical Center, LDS Hospital and Primary Children's Medical Center, said that even that short duration of breast feeding means baby will have fewer allergies and infections and provides other benefits, as well.

Not all women, however, can breast feed. "Health care providers need to do all they can to support breast-feeding while balancing that to support those who can't breast feed," Karp said.

Formula manufacturers have worked hard to make their offering nutritious so it will meet the needs of infants and they've done a good job of that. But it's not the same as breast milk in the benefits it offers babies.

Ideally an infant should be breast-fed for a year, Lindgren said.

Discussion during the hotline ran the gamut from one woman's call on how to clean children's toys to another's concern about her newborn's stool color. Friends told her green can signal impending malnutrition. Karp told her a better indicator of that is whether the baby is eating well and growing properly. Karp said parents, especially new ones, spend a lot of time worrying about their babies and there are a fair number of wives' tales out there.

As for the toys, Lindgren said that in his household, they take toys out of circulation periodically to let them self-clean. There are times, though, when soap and water are a decidedly good idea.

They also discussed a new special-care nursery that will formally open July 16 at LDS Hospital. It's a "tweener" unit, designed to provide special care to babies who don't need the high-intensity services of the newborn intensive care, but who do need some extra care.

The newspaper and Intermountain Healthcare tackle a different health topic the second Saturday of each month.

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