When looking at the health of Marylanders, support for breast feeding, as proposed by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), is the right thing to do and follows the U.S. Surgeon General's call to action to support breast feeding. We disagree with Dr. Kenneth Hoffman's opinions about the recommendations coming from DHMH ("Promotion of breast feeding goes too far," Feb. 14).

Evidence shows that breast feeding is superior to the alternative. It is not just a food. It bolsters a baby's immune system and decreases a child and mother's risks of chronic diseases like diabetes. Breast fed babies are healthier and have fewer visits to their doctors, resulting in lower health care costs. Contrary to what Dr. Hoffman stated, evidence actually shows that post-partum depression is less for mothers who breast feed versus their non-breast feeding counterparts.

We recognize Dr. Hoffman's concerns about those who are unsuccessful in breast feeding. The hope is that policies like those from DHMH will contribute to better levels of breast feeding support and assistance from the outset. This would then result in mother/baby couples breast feeding more successfully. By doing so, Dr. Hoffman would see fewer patients due to lack of breast feeding success.

In addition, it is unfair for Dr. Hoffman to suggest that DHMH is "forcing" anyone to breast feed. The policies simply provide better support. The alternative, formula, would still be available to those who request it, yet if breast feeding was not working, staff would be more able to fix the breast feeding rather than suggest an alternative.

Kim Knight

The writer is president of the Maryland Breast feeding Coalition.