Breastfeeding Medicine

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Reports on breastfeeding sibling study are vastly overstated

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A recent analysis of breastfeeding’s effects on child health is making headlines that some of the benefits of breastfeeding have been overstated.

The authors examined behavioral assessments of children born between 1978 and 2006. When they compared breastfed children with formula-fed children, they found that the breastfed kids were healthier and smarter, as many other studies have previously reported. However, they then looked at families in which only some of the children had been breastfed, and they found that whether or not siblings were breastfed did not significantly affect their health outcomes. The authors argue that this proves that a child’s family – not infant feeding – is what really determines long-term child health, and breastfeeding doesn’t really matter.

The biggest problem with this conclusion is that the study ignored anything that happened in these families before their children reached the age of 4, disregarding well-established links between ear infections, pneumonia, vomiting and diarrhea and the amount of human milk a baby receives. There’s strong biological evidence for these relationships, because formula lacks the antibodies and other immune factors in breast milk that block bacteria from binding to the infant gut and airway. For preterm infants, formula exposure raises rates of necrotizing enterocolitis, a devastating and often deadline complication of prematurity. And evidence continues to mount that formula feeding increases risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Furthermore, mothers who don’t breastfeed face higher rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. None of these outcomes were addressed by the recent sibling study. The paper’s authors note they were interested in longer-term outcomes in childhood, but that’s been lost in the news coverage, which has effectively thrown out the breastfeeding mom and baby with the bath water.

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Written by astuebe

March 1, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine urges AAP to end formula marketing partnership

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New Rochelle, NY, December 27, 2013—The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine today asked the American Academy of Pediatrics to end its formula marketing relationship with Mead Johnson.

“AAP participation in formula marketing undermines consensus medical recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and is harmful to the health of mothers and infants,” wrote Wendy Brodribb, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. “We urge the AAP to discontinue this relationship with Mead Johnson.”

In an email message to members of the AAP’s Section on Breastfeeding, AAP President Thomas McInerny stated, “The inclusion of formula in hospital discharge bags, along with the AAP educational materials Mead Johnson purchased, has sparked considerable discussion. The Academy has initiated conversations with Mead Johnson to ensure the AAP is not connected with distribution of formula samples in the future.”

The ABM executive committee urged the AAP to set strict guidelines regarding formula marketing, stating, “We further urge the AAP leadership to implement a formal policy prohibiting Academy participation in direct-to-consumer marketing of formula.”

As reported last week in The New York Times, the AAP has contracted with Mead Johnson to provide educational materials for the formula manufacturer’s hospital discharge bags. Rigorous studies have found that mothers who receive bags containing formula samples and coupons introduce formula earlier than mothers who receive non-commercial information.

Furthermore, families who plan to formula feed from the start perceive the brand-name discharge bags as an endorsement from their health care provider, leading them to spend hundreds of dollars on pricey brand-name formula, rather than equivalent generic products.

“Concern about these harmful effects of formula marketing has led two thirds of America’s 45 top hospitals to discontinue formula advertising in their maternity wards,” Dr. Wendy Brodribb, ABM President wrote. “It is therefore deeply troubling that the AAP has contracted with Mead Johnson to support this practice.”

Written by bfmed

December 27, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Re-visiting pacifiers and breastfeeding

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A newly published study in Pediatrics  is receiving media attention due to its finding that “restricting pacifier distribution during the newborn hospitalization without also restricting access to formula was associated with decreased exclusive breastfeeding, increased supplemental formula feeding, and increased exclusive formula feeding.”

The study took place in a US hospital’s mother-baby-unit (MBU) before and after implementation of a new institutional policy restricting routine pacifier distribution as part of a breastfeeding support initiative.  (The four other breastfeeding support measures adopted by the MBU included breastfeeding in the first hour after birth, feeding only breast milk in the hospital, keeping infant in same room with mother in the hospital, and giving mother a telephone number to call for help with breastfeeding after discharge.)  Of note, pacifiers were stored in a locked supply management system as part of the new policy, but formula access was not limited in the same way.

The researchers retrospectively examined exclusive breastfeeding rates (as compared to breastfeeding plus supplemental formula, and exclusive formula feeding) before and after the change.   They saw a significant decrease in exclusive breastfeeding (from 79% to 68%) paralleled by significant increases in both formula-supplemented breastfeeding (18% to 28%) and exclusive formula feeding (1.8% to 3.4%).

While it is tempting to conclude “thus pacifier use is necessary in supporting exclusive breastfeeding”, it’s also important to note that the study in question states that “no specific script was instituted to verbally instruct parents on infant soothing techniques” either before or after restricting pacifier use.  Thus it is equally tempting  to conclude that desperate parents will resort to culturally familiar ways to soothe crying newborns — and in US culture, those include bottles and pacifiers.

It would be interesting to see a similar study conducted in a setting that emphasizes supporting parents in learning alternative ways to comfort their babies, such as skin-to-skin care and cue-based breastfeeding.  It might also be interesting to see weight loss at discharge,  and/or jaundice requiring phototherapy, as an outcome measure.

Kimberly Lee is a neonatologist and member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. She has previously written about pacifiers and breastfeeding in her blog post, “A sucker born every minute:” Pacifiers and breastfeeding.

Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.

Written by neobfmd

March 19, 2013 at 1:06 pm

The Breastfeeding and Obesity Controversy

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Fact or fiction: Is breastfeeding actually linked with a lower risk of childhood obesity? The common thinking for the past several years has been “yes,” based on comprehensive analyses from the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the World Health Organization. However, two recent articles have disputed these conclusions. Considerable media attention has surrounded new data from the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT), published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on March 13, and in a January 31 article in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on obesity myths by Casazza et al. We discuss both articles’ conclusions, as the public tries to make sense of all the conflicting information. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by melissabartick

March 15, 2013 at 5:30 pm

Establishing the Fourth Trimester

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Lisa Selvin’s provocative article, “Is the Medical Community Failing Breastfeeding Moms?” has elicited a wide range of reactions from the breastfeeding community. Some have argued that the piece, which focuses on unmet needs of mothers who encounter physiologic problems with breastfeeding, “sensationalizes” breastfeeding, making it sound so treacherous and difficult that mothers should avoid it altogether.

I would argue that there’s a very fine line between “sensationalizing” and “truth in advertising.” Reproductive biology is imperfect — some couples can’t conceive, and some pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth. The silence around these losses and the isolation that women have historically experienced has probably worsened the suffering for many women. On the other hand, emphasizing these risks and creating a culture of fear harms the majority of mothers who will have successful pregnancies and births. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by astuebe

January 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Building a breastfeeding culture

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Breastfeeding take a village. For me, the star of the team is my husband, who stayed at home with our baby and brought him to visit on long weekend shifts.

I started my internship in Ob/Gyn the day my first child turned three months old, walking down Brookline Avenue to Brigham and Women’s Hospital with a Pump-in-Style slung on my back and a vague determination to breastfeed. The first day of orientation, I went hunting for the lactation room I’d been told was on the 15th floor of the hospital, only to learn that it had been closed months ago. Some merciful nurses let me into their break room, and I pumped hunched in a corner, contemplating this inauspicious beginning to working motherhood.

After a few days, I found the actual lactation room (on the 9th floor of a different building), and I settled into a routine of blending clinical work with every-three-hour breaks. This was before hands-free pumping bras, and I gradually mastered the art of balancing bottles on my knees while answering pages and reviewing patient charts. By the time I had my first overnight call, I’d learned to pre-assemble my pump parts, screwing the flanges onto the bottles at home and covering them with sandwich bags so I could save a few precious seconds.  That first night, I forgot to pack tops for the bottles, and found myself in the newborn nursery and Mass General, where more merciful nurses borrowed tops from sterile water bottles so I could take my milk home.

Another call shift, after an increasingly excruciating six hours of catching babies and writing progress notes, I staggered into the storage closet / pumping room to discover that I had the wrong pump attachment. The midwife on call came to my rescue, tracking down the right tubing and bringing me a tangy cranberry-juice-and-Shasta-ginger-ale cocktail.

Like every mother who juggles pumping and working, I could go on and on– the pumping in airplane bathrooms on long haul flights, the Fed Ex’ing of 100 ounces of pumped milk on dry ice to my in laws when my husband took our son to visit them, and the sweet, sweet comfort of putting my baby to breast after a 36-hour shift.

Most of all, I am grateful – grateful to a confluence of people and circumstances that made it possible for me to continue breastfeeding through my child’s first year and beyond. Eleven years later, I realize that there was not “one thing” that made it possible – in fact, there were multiple factors that helped me succeed. And if we want to build a breastfeeding culture, we need to build multiple influences into every mother’s experience so that she has the best chance of succeeding. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by astuebe

November 16, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Breastfeeding, policy

Questioning the Feasibility of a Paid Maternity Leave Policy During a Time of Ecconomic Crisis

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Reviewing the proceedings of the Fourth Annual Summit on Breastfeeding1 was an informative and inspiring experience for me. Still, I must confess to a measure of disappointment regarding the absence of any meaningful discussion about paid maternity leave as a strategy to improve upon breastfeeding rates in the United States. This is curious, considering that paid maternity leave was the second most common topic for public comment in the preparation of The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding2. I suspect that the reason for this omission from the Summit agenda was an unspoken presumption that a national paid maternity leave policy is not going to happen, and so it makes no sense to talk about it. If true, I would like to challenge this presumption. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by gcalnen

November 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

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