HONG KONG - Members of the medical fraternity have called for a return to breast-feeding, amid a scandal involving contaminated dairy products from Chinese producers.
"Breast milk has a lot of advantages for infants. It has antibodies and protects children from (gastrointestinal) infections like diarrhoea," Marie Tarrant, assistant professor of nursing studies at the University of Hong Kong, said on Wednesday.
"The baby grows in a more stable way and is not overweight ... the nutritional content in breast milk changes as the baby grows, unlike formula milk," Tarrant said.
"Breast-fed babies just take what they need, bottle-fed babies tend to be overfed."
Apart from expounding the merits of breast-feeding, medical professionals have warned that Asian countries, which have been consuming more dairy products in recent decades, of a possible rise in incidences of major diseases like breast cancer and osteoporosis in the years ahead.
The calls come amid a scandal involving Chinese dairy products tainted with melamine.
The chemical has been found in infant formula and other milk products from more than 20 Chinese dairy companies in the past weeks.
Producers are thought to have added it to diluted milk to cut costs because its high nitrogen content masks the low protein level that results.
Thousands of children in China affected by the tainted baby formula have landed in hospital with kidney stones and other urinary problems.
The United Nations Children's Fund and the World Health Organization also issued a statement last week calling for the return to breast milk for infants.
"No infant formula contains the perfect combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to enhance infant growth and brain development as breast milk does," the groups said.
A number of studies in recent years have also reportedly shown associations between increasing dairy product consumption and diseases such ass prostate cancer, diabetes and Parkinson's.
Advocates said infants should be fed exclusively with breast milk for their first six months.
Thereafter, they recommend that infants receive complementary foods while continuing to be breast-fed up to at least the age of two.
Mary Lee, a mother of two boys in Singapore, was one of those consumers who believed in the benefits of breast-feeding.
"Breast-feed for as long as you can. Not just to provide life-nourishing food to your baby, but to create a life-giving bond with your child for the rest of your lives," she said.
"I have been breastfeeding for seven years now," she said.