House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today's column is written by Jeannine Williams-Barnard, a registered nurse in the Obstetrics Department at Sutter coast Hospital.

The results are in and the outcome is clear: When it comes to feeding your baby, breast is best.

Scientists and medical researchers have been looking closely at this question for years now, and the findings indicate that breast-fed babies enjoy many health advantages.

They are healthier and need fewer doctor visits. They suffer fewer allergies, ear infections, gastrointestinal upsets such as diarrhea, and have fewer hospital stays. Studies have found that they also score slightly higher on IQ tests.

Breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for babies. Human milk is uniquely suited for human babies, and has not been duplicated in formulas.

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that babies be exclusively breast-fed for the first six months. Exclusive breast-feeding means no water supplements, no juices and no foods be added to the baby's diet. The AAP also recommends that babies continue to receive breast milk for at least the first 12 months, along with the introduction of foods, and longer if the mother and baby are willing.

Breast-feeding is healthier for moms as well. Research has shown that women who have breast-fed a child have a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers, and often experience a more rapid return to their pre-pregnant weight.

Another advantage of breast-feeding is protection for your baby during times of crisis. Breast milk is readily available in a disaster without the worries of boiling water without electricity and having adequate supplies of formula. It is convenient in the night and while traveling; no bottles to worry about. And the cost savings are impressive as well.

Online information on breast-feeding is plentiful; here are a couple of sites to check and

The providers and nursing staff at Sutter Coast Hospital who care for mothers and babies recognize the many benefits of breast-feeding. The nursing staff of the Family Birth Center have all received additional specialized training to help mothers and babies off to a good start with breast-feeding. The hospital also has a lactation educator and a lactation specialist on staff to provide additional assistance.

To build on that good start, community supporters of breast-feeding have recently formed the Del Norte County Breast-feeding Coalition.

The coalition's support group meets Tuesdays from 10 a.m. until noon, and on Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Del Norte Family Resource Center, 494 Pacific Ave., Crescent City.

It is an opportunity for breast-feeding moms and a lactation educator to get together in an informal setting and discuss struggles, successes, and techniques. For more information, call (707) 464-5500, ext. 154, and leave a message.