Breastfeeding Medicine

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Arthur Eidelman deconstructs the latest breastfeeding-and-IQ study

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Would you do a study that “analyzed” the relationship of breastfeeding and IQ based on data obtained from mothers who retrospectively reported at 18 months postpartum if they did or did not breastfeed? Would you conclude anything if the data base was a yes or no answer, with no distinction made if it was exclusive breastfeeding or partial (of any degree) and with absolutely no data provided as to duration of the breastfeeding? Believe or not that was the basis for the “conclusion” by researchers in England that was published in the open access journal PLOS/one, widely reported the lay press and trumpeted gleefully by the disparagers of breastfeeding.

No less than these glaring methodological deficiencies, is the misreading by the “public” of what the authors themselves studied. As they stated, the study was NOT on IQ per se, but rather on IQ growth trajectories. Or to put it simply, if breastfeeding increased a child’s IQ as measured by the initial IQ test and the child maintained that degree of increased IQ as compared to children who did not breastfeed, there would be no increased growth trajectory.

Thus, extrapolating from trajectory data to absolute levels of IQ and concluding that breastfeeding has no impact on IQ is just plain wrong (let alone ignoring the wealth of articles in literature that support the conclusion that breastfeeding does increase IQ : see the most recent review: Effects of Breastfeeding on Obesity and Intelligence: Causal Insights From Different Study Designs. Smithers LG, Kramer MS, Lynch JW. JAMA Pediatr. 2015 Aug)

Given this combination of the basic limitations of methodology coupled with the misinterpretation of the study results, one must conclude that in no way does this study contradict what is a given: breastfeeding is critical quantitative positive variable in the cognitive development of all children. Furthermore, as a measure of the limited value of the study, one should note that authors did not even cite the issue of the lack of data as to the quantity of breast milk that the infants ingested over time in their list of the limitations of the study, let alone, did they indicate the lack of data as to major confounders such as maternal IQ and quality of home environment.

Bottom line is that this study should be discounted in any serious discussion as to the relationship of breastfeeding and IQ!

Dr. Arthur I Eidelman is a Professor of Pediatrics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, past president of ABM, and a Fellow 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 aeidelmanmd

October 8, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Breast Milk CMV and the risk of feeding the VLBW infant

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The recently published article by Josephson and colleagues confirms that serious infections due to postnatally acquired CMV in very low birth weight infants are a real concern. The study documented that properly screened (CMV seronegative) and filtered blood and blood components effectively blocks transmission of CMV from these previously documented sources and in turn confirmed that the primary source of transmission is maternal milk from seropositive mothers. Of the infants who were exposed to mother’s breast milk that was positive for CMV, 15 % developed serologic evidence of CMV disease and less than 3% developed significant clinical disease, including NEC, with a mortality of 60% (3/5).

Of importance to note was the fact that the study was performed primarily by a team of hematologists and transfusion experts and unfortunately lack any details as to the clinical course of the infected infants — there were no data on birth weight or gestational age data, no indication as to quantity of milk ingested, when breastfeeding was initiated, the percentage of raw milk ingested versus frozen thawed milk, post natal age of onset if disease, bowel biopsy or post mortem findings. Furthermore not all the mothers had their milk tested for presence of CMV. Thus, these significant methodological limitations preclude accurate mathematical calculations as to actual risk of feeding human milk to the VLBW infant. Furthermore, the absence of any basic clinical data precludes identifying who are the truly high-risk infants. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by aeidelmanmd

September 29, 2014 at 6:56 am

Posted in In the news, research

Sleep study no basis for clinical advice

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The following is a copy of the letter to be printed in Pediatrics responding to the article by Henderson et al. Clearly such a problematic study cannot be used as a basis for parental guidance!! See also the letter in Pediatrics from Jim Mckenna

To the Editor:
I am dismayed by the publication of the study of Henderson et al which ostensibly documents the normal patterns of sleep in infants in the first year of life. The population studied was non-random, self selected and not representative of the varied ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic diversity of a normal population. Thus, just on these grounds this inevitable selection bias precludes any conclusions.

Even more importantly, no information was provided as to the feeding patterns of the infants: what percentage if any were breastfed? In the breastfed infants to what degree was supplementary commercial formula added, at what age were complementary foods introduced and how (bottle, spoon), and what sleeping arrangements were followed (separate rooms, close proximity or co-sleeping)? The absence of information regarding these variables which impact on the sleeping pattern of infants similarly invalidates the presentation of the authors results as a description of the natural history of sleep and surely the results cannot serve as a basis for the guidance of parents as to what are normal infant care practices.

Furthermore, while the fact that the authors have no medical background may explain their lack of including such basic clinical data in the their study design, it does not explain the absence of even mentioning these serious limitations in the discussion section. This in of itself raises serious question as to the review process that the study underwent.

Dr. Arthur I Eidelman is a Professor of Pediatrics at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel. He is a Fellow of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and Vice-President of ABM.

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

Written by aeidelmanmd

November 10, 2010 at 10:07 am