Archive for the ‘policy’ Category
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
The Annual ABM Meeting in Chicago this year was amazing–truly one of the best. Kudos to the conference planners, staff, and faculty. I was particularly interested in 1000 Days: The Window of Opportunity by Lucy Martinez Sullivan, MBA. Some of you may be familiar with this organization, but since I wasn’t, let me give you a bit of background. 1,000 Days
is a partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society organizations which promotes targeted action and investment to improve nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday when better nutrition can have a life-changing impact on a child’s future and help break the cycle of poverty…The partnership serves as a platform to encourage investment and strengthen policies to improve early nutrition in the developing world in alignment with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Framework, an approach that seeks to coordinate and accelerate international efforts to combat undernutrition.
It really is amazing that this organization is bringing together so many different types of organizations from all over the world to fight malnutrition and undernutrition. It makes sense that Ms. Sullivan came to speak to a room full of lactation specialists, right? It makes perfect sense since breastmilk is the normal nutrition for a baby/infant/toddler–and gives that child the best chance of survival. Nutrition from breastmilk is important for all babies, but especially vital for those born in developing countries since this can mean the difference between life and death. Read the rest of this entry »
Jessica Isles posted a great question today on my blog, “When Lactation Doesn’t Work:”
I was wondering if any comparative studies have been done on the statistics of lactation failure in various cultures both developed and less developed. Please post if you are aware of any – or any statistics on how many women’s milk never comes in (in the US), with a healthy full term new born, in an environment supportive of breastfeeding. We need to help mothers who struggle with this.
That’s a great question – and a difficult one to answer. Marianne Neifert estimates that “as many as 5% of women may have primary insufficient lactation because of anatomic breast variations or medical illness that make them unable to produce a full milk supply despite heroic efforts.” [Neifert MR (2001). "Prevention of breastfeeding tragedies." Pediatr Clin North Am 48(2): 273-97.] Read the rest of this entry »
For the second time in 8 days, the New York Times is running an opinion piece criticizing “polarizing messages” about breastfeeding and questioning the evidence linking breastfeeding with differences in health outcomes for mother and child.
Neither writer interviewed an epidemiologist or a scientist who has studied associations between breastfeeding and health outcomes, and neither writer acknowledged evidence-based reviews of the literature by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or the World Health Organization. Instead, they quote a retired physician who authors a controversial blog and journalist who wrote a piece on breastfeeding in 2009, and they conclude that breastfeeding isn’t that important after all.
Both Alissa Quart and Jane Brody go on to suggest that it’s unrealistic to recommend 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, because too many women encounter insurmountable barriers that make these recommendations impossible to achieve.
And yet, for the second time in 8 days, a New York Times writer has chosen to ignore the major public health strategies currently in place to address these barriers: Read the rest of this entry »
A new study out of Scotland is making headlines today that current recommendations for 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding are “unrealistic.” It’s an irksome claim that is prompting breastfeeding advocates to suspect another formula-company-funded misinformation campaign designed to mislead mothers and undermine public health.
In fact, however, the Hoddinott paper, which follows a select group of mothers, partners, sisters, and grandmothers from pregnancy to 6 months after birth, offers a great deal of food for thought for those who care about supporting the wellbeing of families in the months after childbirth. Read the rest of this entry »
A recent commentary in the National Review titled, “Fire the government wet nurse,” reads, at first blush, like breastfeeding advocacy. Author Julie Gunlock starts out by saying, “Breast milk is magic,” citing benefits for fighting infection and improving maternal health.
But then Gunlock takes aim at the WIC program, arguing that this safety net for poor families “encourages poor women to skip breastfeeding altogether and instead turn to formula for their children’s nutrition needs.” Gunlock notes that only one third of WIC mothers breastfeed for 6 months, and the program accounts for more than half of formula sales in the US. WIC, she argues, is yet another entitlement program that is hurting the very people it is supposed to help.
It’s a tidy argument – that safety net programs cause poverty, rather than help those who are most in need. The only problem is that it’s not true. Read the rest of this entry »
This fall, I had the honour to represent the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) at the 64th annual conference of the UNO DPI/NGO in Bonn (Germany). The theme of this conference was “Sustainable Societies, Responsive Citizens”. This theme was discussed in plenary discussions, panel discussions, Round Tables and workshops. Emphasis was also placed on youth participation. They partly had their own program but also joined in the regular discussions. There was a large NGO exhibition, and between the discussions and through an official invitation for a reception by the city of Bonn, there was much time to meet with persons of organisations from around the world.
Read the rest of this entry »