Breastfeeding Medicine

Physicians blogging about breastfeeding

Highlights from day two of ABM 2010

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Today’s conference featured both the physician and health team meetings, with a panel of excellent speakers covering clinical and research topics. The physician meeting started with Verity Livingstone’s talk on hypernatremic dehydration and a comprehensive approach to assessing reasons for low weight gain in the early weeks of life.


Todd Wolynn
followed with a highly entertaining talk on the Business Case for Breastfeeding. Wolynn started with the contention that the match-up between breastfeeding and Big Formula is not a fair fight — yet breastfeeding advocates are making progress, pushing US initiation rates to 75% in the US. The industry’s current strategy, he contends, is to convince health professionals and the public that breastfeeding is bad for business. In fact, he argues, breastfeeding is great for business — hospitals and physicians who cater to nursing moms build demand for their services, and businesses who accommodate employees get a $3 return on every dollar invested. When we make the case that breastfeeding is good for business, he argues, Big Formula won’t have a leg to stand on.

Larry Gartner then reviewed ABM’s jaundice protocol, emphasizing that breastfeeding 10 to 12 times a day provides the best protection against jaundice. He also shared strategies for restoring a mother’s confidence in breastfeeding after newborn jaundice.

UNC researcher Karen Grewen wrapped up the morning with a talk on the role of oxytocin in maternal behavior. She began with data that the pathways that bond mothers to babies are the same brain mechanisms that play a role in addiction, sharing a provocative paper, Is social attachment an addictive disorder? She went on to describe research on the role of oxytocin in reinforcing maternal behavior, including caring for infants and defending them from threats. In her lab, she has also measured brain activity in mothers when looking at videos of their own infants compared with other, equally cute infants. She’s found that breastfeeding mothers have relatively more brain activation when they see their own babies compared with formula-feeding mothers. Breastfeeding mothers also had higher levels of oxytocin than formula-feeding mothers. Grewen’s group has also found that more depressed mothers have lower levels of oxytocin. Moreover, higher oxytocin levels were associated with more beneficial blood pressure and heart rate during stress.

The afternoon featured abstract presentations from researchers in the US, Scotland, Japan and the US, as well as a series of talks on environmental contaminants and breastfeeding. Researcher Asa Bradman shared data from the Chamacos study on toxins in mothers and children, including data that longer breastfeeding was associated with better cognitive development in children, even when mothers had high levels of DDT. He emphasized that breastfeeding is the recommended form of infant feeding, even when there are environmental contaminants in milk.

The evening wrapped up with highlights from the Second Annual Summit on Breastfeeding, including Dr. Cynthia Howard’s summary of comments from health economist Charles Phelps. ABM Founder Ruth Lawrence reported that planning is underway for the 3rd annual summit this spring, and she told the crowd, “Our plans are for a seismic paradigm shift.” Stay tuned!

Alison Stuebe, MD, MSc, is a maternal-fetal medicine physician, breastfeeding researcher, and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. She is a member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.

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

Written by astuebe

October 30, 2010 at 12:25 am

Posted in policy, research

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