Breastfeeding

Mamas on Bedrest: Want a Smarter Baby? Breastfeed!

March 30th, 2015

nursing infantGood Monday Morning, Mamas!!

According to a recent study done by Brazilian Researchers published in The Lancet Global Health, “Breast-fed babies may be smarter, better educated and richer as adults”. This article so intrigued me that I had to read through and see just what the researchers saw as the determining factors.

According to the Medline report and the actual publication, Brazilian researchers followed enrolled and started following 5914 neonates who were breastfeeding to gather information about IQ and breastfeeding duration. The data was analyzed between June of 2012 and February 2013.  3493 participants remained from the original study group. The researchers found that the durations of total breastfeeding (in months) and predominantly breastfeeding (breastfeeding as the main form of nutrition with some other foods) were positively associated with higher IQ, higher educational attainment, and higher income. Babies who were breastfed for 12 months or more were found to have higher IQ scores, more years of education, and higher monthly incomes than did those who were breastfed for less than 1 month. So based on these findings, the researchers concluded that “Breastfeeding is associated with improved performance in intelligence tests 30 years later, and might have an important effect in real life, by increasing educational attainment and income in adulthood.”

While the results of this study are in line with many other studies, the article has aroused some criticism. Dr. David Mendez, a neonatologist at Miami Children’s Hospital, said “Parents should not take the message from this study that ‘if you do not breast-feed, your child will not be a successful adult.'” The researchers found that it was duration of breastfeeding that was key. It did not depend on the infants’ families being wealthy or on the parents being highly educated, outcomes in the infants still showed breastfed babies were more successful and those who were breastfed longer were more successful.

What those critical to the study did point out is that it does take time and effort to breastfeed. Parents who are dedicated to breastfeeding and mamas who have a strong support while they breastfeed are going to be more successful. Moreover, they are more likely to be invested in the overall development of their child, making choices and exhibiting habits that nurture their child and guide them in more positive behaviors. They caution people against thinking that breastfeeding alone will give a child an advantage. However, the more its studied, the more we can see that breastfeeding does in fact lead to numerous benefits-for infants as well as for their mamas. Here are some of the benefits:

  • Breastfed infants are getting high quantities of saturated fatty acids (of which breastmilk is composed) and which the infant brain preferentially uses for growth and development
  • Breastmilk contains important immunologic factors that are passed from mama to baby so that babies are protected from many dangerous diseases while they are growing and being immunized.
  • Breastmilk is always ready; perfect amount, at perfect temperature. No need for bottles, or additional time to mix or prepare
  • Breastfeeding is economical. No additional costs to the family
  • Breastfeeding provides additional “skin to skin” time for mama and baby and numerous studies have shown that skin to skin, cuddling and closeness improves growth and development in infants
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to help some mothers lose the pregnancy weight
  • Breastfeeding is linked to reduced rates of breast cancer in mothers.

With all of these benefits and more, one would think that Breastfeeding would be a “no brainer” (pun intended!!). However, Breastfeeding is still somewhat controversial here in the United States, despite all the scientific evidence for its benefit, the “Breast is Best” campaigns and the recommendations from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatricians. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 79% of American mamas initiate breastfeeding at birth, and at 6 months that number drops to somewhere around 27%. At 12 months, a mere 12% of mamas are still breastfeeding their babies. Barriers to breastfeeding include:

  • Difficulty latching on
  • Lack of support from parnter/familly
  • Painful/sore nipples
  • Insufficient milk supply
  • Mother returns to work/limited ability to pump.

Many of these barriers are being addressed. “Baby Friendly Hospitals”(1) are allowing more time for mamas and babies to bond right after birth and during the hospital stay. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed and lactation consultants are available to assist with any logistical difficulties. Lactation consultants are also available to answer questions partners or family members may have, and to educate the family on the benefits of breastfeeding and their important role in supporting mama.

Public breastfeeding is not widely accepted in the United States and many states, cities and local areas have laws/restrictions about how and where mothers may feed their infants. Breastfeeding advocates are working to have many of these laws and rules overturned, but face an uphill battle in some areas. Legislation has been passed in many states requiring employers to provide “pumping breaks” for breastfeeding mamas, as well as quiet, private and comfortable areas in which mamas can pump. These are all works in progress.

We cannot ignore the fact that up until the turn of the 20th century, everyone was breastfed. While the wealthy or nobility may have had “wet nurses” (other, often poor or servant lactating women breastfed their babies), all babies were breastfed until they were old enough to eat mashed table foods or cereals. It’s how we as a species survived. It has worked for centuries. Why is it suddenly “passe”?

I am sure that this article will continue to spark controversy. However, I hope that we don’t lose fact of the basic principle: babies were meant to be breastfed by their mothers. The physiology of a woman’s breast, and the milk that she makes is specifically designed to feed her infants regardless of the size of her breast tissue. Most infants can breastfeed unless they have a physical anomaly prohibiting them from doing so, and this is rare. Even in such cases, if mothers can pump, the infant can still reap the benefits in breastmilk. In mothers who have difficulties, with support, education and guidance, most all mamas who want to breast feed, can. The data is in and yes, Breast is best-for infants and quite possibly for the adults they will become!

 

 

References

1. Prof Cesar G Victora, PhD, Dr Bernardo Lessa Horta, PhDcorrespondenceemail, Christian Loret de Mola, PhD, Luciana Quevedo, PhD, Ricardo Tavares Pinheiro, PhD, Denise P Gigante, PhD, Helen Gonçalves, PhD, Fernando C Barros, PhD. “Association between breastfeeding and intelligence, educational attainment, and income at 30 years of age: a prospective birth cohort study from Brazil” The Lancet Global Health. Volume 3, No. 4, e199–e205, April 2015 (Released online March 17, 2015).

2. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program that was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1991 to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. It recognizes and awards birthing facilities who successfully implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (i) and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (ii). 

 

 

 

 

 

Mamas on Bedrest: Breastfeeding Cuts Breast Cancer Risks in Black Women

October 13th, 2014

Black Baby BreastfeedingHi Mamas,

We all know that “Breast is Best”! Yet in this country, many women are still unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Black community where the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that only 62% of African American mothers initiated breastfeeding as of 2010 data. By 6 months, only 32% of those mothers were still breastfeeding. So while lactation consultants and others will continue to promote breastfeeding citing the benefits to the baby, there is now an equally significant reason to promote breastfeeding in African American Mamas: Breastfeeding likely protects African American women against Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer.

Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer is a very aggressive form of breast cancer and African American women are affected at a disproportionately higher rate than white women. While breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, this has previously only been shown in Estrogen Receptor positive cancers. According to this current study, African American women who have given birth had a 33% higher risk for ER-negative breast cancer than those who had never given birth, and a 37% higher risk for triple-negative breast cancer. However, breast-feeding lowered the risk for both ER-negative and triple-negative disease. Christine Ambrosone, PhD, chair of the Department of Cancer Prevention and Control at the Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York summarizes the findings this way:

“These data might partially explain why black women are disproportionately affected by ER-negative breast cancer; although they typically have more children than white women, they have a lower prevalence of lactation. In addition, for every age category in the United States, the incidence of triple-negative breast cancer is higher in black women than in non-Hispanic white women.”

Some researchers are skeptical of the findings, stating that it has yet to be determined that pregnancy is causative of Estrogen Receptor Negative Breast Cancer and breastfeeding reduces risk. However, Dr. Ambrose and her colleagues hold firm that their data suggest that pregnancy and childbirth might actually increase the incidence, but that breast-feeding might lower the risk.

Personally, I feel that since such a simple act could have such a significant outcome, it only makes sense to increase awareness and increase the emphasis among African American women to breastfeed. To date, there is no compelling reason for black women NOT to breastfeed. Now, with the known potential benefits to the baby and the ever emerging benefits to black mamas-now a potential protection against an aggressive form of breast cancer-breastfeeding is becoming more of a necessity than ever!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Mamas, please share this vital information with other (black) mamas you may know who are either on the fence about breastfeeding or who are against breastfeeding. This data is too important not to share! The potential costs are too great and the solution too simple and readily available. Thank you. Let me know how you fared in the comments section below.

References: 

Medscape OB/GYN and Women’s Health

Julie R. Palmer, Emma Viscidi, Melissa A. Troester, Chi-Chen Hong, Pepper Schedin, Traci N. Bethea, Elisa V. Bandera, Virginia Borges, Craig McKinnon, Christopher A. Haiman, Kathryn Lunetta, Laurence N. Kolonel, Lynn Rosenberg, Andrew F. Olshan and Christine B. Ambrosone. “Parity, Lactation, and Breast Cancer Subtypes in African American Women: Results from the AMBER Consortium” Journal of the National Cancer institute (2014) 106 (10): dju237

Mamas on Bedrest: It’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

August 4th, 2014

nursing infantGreetings Mamas!!

August kicks off National Breastfeeding Awareness Month here in the US. Officially designated on August 6, 2011 by the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), the month of educational and promotional activities is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding-physiologically for mamas, developmentally for babies, emotionally for both and economically for families.  Here is the full proclamation. Breastfeeding has been reported to have the following benefits. In Babies

  • Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development. (Healthy People 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia)
  • Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children. Many studies show that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which help the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines. Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15
  • Breastfed babies are less likely to be obese as adults
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of ear infections, and to prevent recurrent ear infections. Ear infections are a major reason that infants take multiple courses of antibiotics.
  • Researchers have observed a decrease in the probability of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in breast-fed infants.
  • Another apparent benefit from breastfeeding may be protection from allergies. Eczema, an allergic reaction, is significantly rarer in breast-fed babies. A review of 132 studies on allergy and breastfeeding concluded that breastfeeding appears to help protect children from developing allergies, and that the effect seems to be particularly strong among children whose parents have allergies.

In Mamas

  • Breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after birth.
  • Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
  • When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective — more effective than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of four births per woman, and in Bangladesh it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.
  • Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
  • Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down.
  • Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.
  • Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
  • The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby. Breastfeeding has also been shown to reduce the incidence of post partum depression in mamas. (See our posts on Breastfeeding and Post Partum Depression!)

August 1-7, 2014 is also World Breastfeeding Week. Coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the theme for this year’s week of awareness is to impress upon everyone importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of the methods advocated in the Millennium Development Goals, developed in 1990 by the United Nations and affiliated governments to help fight poverty and promote healthy and sustainable development in a comprehensive way by 2015.

wbw2014-objectives According to the WABA breastfeeding and the Millennium Develoment Goals are intricately linked, “The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are meant to be achieved by 2015 – next year! Although much progress has taken place, there is still a lot of “unfinished business”. Here are some examples: Poverty has gone down, but 1 in 8 people still go to bed hungry. Undernutrition affects about a quarter of all children globally. Overweight, the other form of malnutrition is becoming more common too. In the last 2 decades, child mortality has decreased by about 40%, but still almost 7 million children under five die each year, mainly from preventable diseases. As the overall rate of under-five mortality has declined, the proportion of neonatal deaths (during the first month of life) comprises an increasing proportion of all child deaths. Globally, maternal mortality has declined from 400 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 210 in 2010, but fewer than half of women deliver in baby-friendly maternities. By protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding, YOU can contribute to each of the MDGs in a substantial way. Exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding are key interventions for improving child survival, potentially saving about 20% of children under five. Let’s review how the UN’s Scientific Committee on Nutrition illustrated how breastfeeding is linked to each of the Millennium Development Goals.” So breastfeeding can go a long way to not only benefitting the health of mamas and babies individually, but help reduce poverty, malnutrition and infant and child mortality globally. If you are considering breastfeeding and want more information, the links in this post are from some of the best resources globally, especially if you want to take on an advocacy role. If you want more specific personal information on breastfeeding, I suggest you contact your local La Leche League. These folks really know breastfeeding!! They offer a plethora of information on their website, have many books on breastfeeding available for purchase and do phone and often in person consultations. You can also check with your healthcare provider and local hospital for referrals to lactation consultants who can assist with breastfeeding.   Do you have more questions? Join Bedrest Coach Darline Turner for a one hour Q & A session during the Free Third Thursday Teleseminar, August 21, 2014, 1:00-2:00pm ET. She will field any and all questions relating to bedrest, pregnancy and post partum. You can join the conversation live or submit your questions up to 24 hours before via e-mail at info@mamasonbedrest.com. Join our interactive bed rest community on Facebook and chat with mamas globally on all things bed rest! Finally, Get your copy of the e-book From Mamas: The Essential Guide to Surviving Bedrest! This guide will help you not only survive bedrest, but THRIVE on bedrest! Order your copy now on Amazon.com   Other Resources: Natural Resources Defense Council 101 Reasons to Breastfeed Your Child