Breastfeeding Medicine

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Towards Improved Support for Medical Trainees Who Are Breastfeeding

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Dr. Helen Johnson

Ironically, physicians have some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the United States. Despite acute awareness of the medical risks of not breastfeeding and deep commitment to educating their patients about the importance of breastfeeding, many physician mothers face significant challenges in their own breastfeeding efforts. Medical trainees – including medical students, resident physicians, and fellows – are among the most vulnerable. This month’s IABLE podcast focuses on how to improve support of medical trainees who are breastfeeding.

Dr. Anne Eglash recording the IABLE podcast.

Medical trainees have jam-packed schedules with little to no control over their time. It can be a small feat to find time to scarf down a snack between surgeries or surreptitiously slip away from hospital rounds to run to the bathroom. In a culture in which self-sacrifice for the greater good of one’s patients is the norm, devoting 20-30 minutes every few hours to express breastmilk can feel like an indulgence. In addition, trainees may fear being perceived as less dedicated than their peers to their education or to patient care should they attend to personal needs at work. Even in a workplace environment that strongly supports breastfeeding – such as the obstetrics/gynecology department – lack of accessible, sanitary, and private spaces can limit a trainee’s ability to breastfeed at work.

In the past several months, several steps have been taken to improve support for medical trainees who are breastfeeding. In June, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) published a statement (https://www.aafp.org/about/policies/all/breastfeeding-accommodations-trainees.html) stressing the need to better support these women through policies that address protected time, adequate facilities, and a supportive workplace environment. On July 1, new Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) regulations went into effect: residency and fellowship programs are now required to provide clean, private lactation facilities for trainees that are in close proximity to patient care and include refrigeration capabilities.

Dr. Rebecca Snyder cartoon from her days as a surgical resident.

The ACGME notes: “While space is important, the time required for lactation is also critical for the wellbeing of the resident and the resident’s family.” Last month, a departmental lactation policy implemented by the surgery departments at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin was published. This policy has been circulated on social media and adapted by dozens of other departments across the nation.

Most recently, my colleagues and I issued a “call to action”, urging the creation of a universal policy to better support resident physicians and fellows who are breastfeeding. We admire the grassroots efforts to create departmental policies and respect the significance of the new ACGME regulations. However, we feel that there is an urgent need to do more to ensure that all medical trainees have the support they need to breastfeed their children. In our publication, we underscore the importance of cultivating a supportive workplace culture, promoting access to appropriate lactation spaces, and ensuring adequate time for breastfeeding, and suggest specific action steps that program directors and institutional leadership can take to achieve these goals. Our piece was highlighted by Duke Forge and is discussed in detail in this month’s IABLE podcast.

Dr. Helen Johnson and her child visiting her at work as a surgical resident.

The podcast features not only the three authors of the “call to action” but also Laurie B. Jones, the founder of Doctor Mothers Interested in Lactation Knowledge. This online peer-to-peer breastfeeding support group for physician mothers has been instrumental in helping thousands of women – including trainees – meet their breastfeeding goals. Dr. MILK members encourage each other and share their wisdom for balancing breastfeeding and a medical career. Let’s take this to the next level by joining forces with breastfeeding medicine physicians and national organizations – together, let’s advocate for a universal lactation policy for medical trainees. ABM has already confirmed their support of the AAFP’s statement. Now it is time to amplify each other’s voices and effect meaningful change.

Dr. Katrina Mitchell and Dr. Laurie Jones in Sedona, AZ where they recorded the podcast for IABLE. The doctors’ three children have been breastfed for cumulative length of 14 years!

– Helen M. Johnson, MD is a general surgery resident at East Carolina University / Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, North Carolina. She is originally from Tampa, Florida and obtained her medical degree from the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Dr. Johnson plans to pursue fellowship training in breast surgical oncology after graduation from residency. She has a special interest in the intersection of breast cancer and breastfeeding, and is working towards IBCLC certification. Dr. Johnson enjoys gardening, playing the cello, and spending time with her husband, two children, and beloved cat. Connect with Dr. Johnson on Twitter: @HelenMJohnsonMD

Blog posts reflect the opinions of individual authors, not ABM as a whole.

Written by helenmjohnson

September 6, 2019 at 11:31 am

I’m grateful for a community of physicians who care deeply about breastfeeding

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Last week, more than 400 health professionals gathered in San Francisco for the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s 23rdInternational Conference. The conference drew participants from 25 counties and 41 US states, including 259 physicians from medical specialties ranging from neonatology to breast surgery.

drmilke

Members of Dr. Milk at ABM 2018

We kicked off with two pre-conference courses, “What every physician needs to know about breastfeeding (WEPNTK)” and “What every physician needs to know about breastfeeding II.” WEPNTK covers the anatomy and physiology of breastfeeding that many of us missed in medical school. WEPNTK II covered more advanced clinical issues, like maternal risk factors for low milk supply, management of tongue tie, therapeutic ultrasound for mastitis, and postpartum depression.

ABM is unlike any other medical conference that I attend because the audience spans multiple medical specialties and brings together clinicians from around the world. The conference committee faces the daunting task of selecting speakers that address the interests of both subspecialists and general practitioners across the translational continuum from basic science to public policy. And as an international conference, our speakers are selected to include perspectives on breastfeeding policy and public health from around the globe. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by astuebe

November 22, 2018 at 10:08 am

ABM’s First Australia/ New Zealand Regional Conference

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The inaugural ABM Australia/New Zealand Regional Conference was held  at the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia on July 20-21 2018 with over 85 registrants from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan.

 

The conference was preceded by a one day workshop “Breastfeeding Essentials for Medical Practitioners” which is a Australian/NZ version of the ABM ‘What every physician need to know about breastfeeding’ course, modified to meet the needs of Australian and New Zealand doctors.  In Australia and New Zealand, most breastfeeding medicine is provided by general practitioners (family physicians) who care for the mother-baby dyad routinely in the postpartum period.  Australian research in 2009, indicated only 23% of general practice registrars felt confident that their breastfeeding knowledge was adequate, with common sources of information being undergraduate teaching, post graduate teaching, general practice and personal experience. (1)  Our aim was to present a breastfeeding conference organised by doctors, for doctors, with clinically relevant and evidence based presentations.

There is a disappointing lack of routine data collection around breastfeeding in Australia; however in 2010 (2) around 96% of women initiated breastfeeding, with a rapid drop in the early months with 39% of women exclusively breastfeeding at 4 months (2). Data from 2007 (3) indicated only 28% of babies continued to be breastfed at 12 months of age. The Australian government has a paid parental scheme where mothers who earn less than AU$150,000 per annum are entitled to 18 weeks paid leave at the national minimum wage. Some employers also provide additional paid parental leave. All mothers are entitled to take up to 12 months maternity leave in total (paid and unpaid) and have their jobs protected under legislation. A similar scheme operates in New Zealand, with 18 weeks government paid parental leave,  increasing to 26 weeks in 2020.

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Written by drmarnierowan

August 8, 2018 at 7:07 am

On finding #MyPeopleABM: Physicians share what ABM means to them

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Jennifer Caplan, MD, FAAP, IBCLC
North Scottsdale Pediatric Associates, AZ USA
I joined ABM after going to an AAP conference in 2008 with my nursing baby. At the conference, I ended up spending almost the entire time with the Section on Breastfeeding because my baby was not interested in staying with my husband—so I brought her with me. And I felt more comfortable hanging out with the breastfeeding crowd. I ended up riding in an elevator with some of the organizers and one of the women told me I should join ABM.

I had been so energized by the discussions at that conference—learning how to do frenotomies, hearing about the “Ban the Bag” efforts in Massachusetts, finding out about Baby Friendly Hospitals for the first time. So, I joined ABM and attended my first conference in 2009.

Being at an ABM conference is amazing. I’m really not a conference person—networking does not come easily to me, I don’t really like the marketing/advertising hall, but I do love learning about new things. ABM is the only conference I really enjoy going to. I always come away from the conference with at least a dozen new ways to practice and a new energy to spread my knowledge to others. And I love the people I meet at ABM conferences—so many perspectives, so many different ways they express their passion for supporting the mother-baby dyad. After another couple conferences, I had been convinced to become a lactation consultant.

I usually make it to the ABM conference, but even in years where I don’t go, I still get a lot out of my membership. I probably use the protocols more than anything else—always the most up to date, comprehensive source on breastfeeding topics. I enjoy seeing the new research coming out in the journals. And just knowing I’m a part of an amazing group that is a political force for advancing breastfeeding and advocating for women is important to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by drmilkarizona

May 5, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Surgeons who pump: #ILookLikeASurgeon

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If you follow trends on social media, you have seen the viral tweets and pics from women surgeons who have copied the New Yorker magazine cover showing three women leaning over an operating table.   These posts share two common hashtags:  #ILookLikeASurgeon and #NYerORCoverChallenge.  As an admin for the 7,000+ member Dr. MILK online physician mother breastfeeding support group, I wanted to see this picture taken from the perspective of a multi-tasking surgeon mother who fits in pumping her milk between cases and a very hectic schedule.  I asked our members to try and coordinate OR schedules and pumping schedules to make this happen.  Three superstar OB GYNs from Baylor College of Medicine created this pic while at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women in Houston, TX.  They don’t literally pump their milk while leaning over an operating table, but this picture represents the duality of surgeon moms who balance patient care needs with meeting the nutritional needs of their infants.  Their stories of breastfeeding/pumping challenges and successes will hopefully encourage mothers of all walks of life to confront and remove barriers to maintaining a milk supply while at work and #normalizePumping.

Here’s what their workday looked like when they managed to take this picture:  One doctor had a delivery and then a c-section while the second had a fetal surgery.  The third surgeon was performing a robotic hysterectomy.  They tried to coordinate the photo between the delivery and c-section but timing wasn’t right, and then just before the fetal surgery the three women rushed into an empty OR to make it happen.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by drmilkarizona

April 28, 2017 at 12:16 pm

ABM Releases Revised Supplementation Protocol

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During a time of abundant research surrounding the long term implications of feeding practices in the neonatal period on maternal and child health, it is of utmost importance that healthcare professionals are guided by the best available evidence regarding infant feeding while caring for breastfeeding dyads. We know that despite the recommendations against routine formula supplementation, this practice is commonplace in hospitals worldwide for a myriad of reasons. In developing ABM Clinical Protocol #3: Supplementary Feedings in the Healthy Term Breastfed Neonate (Read the protocol here) newborn physiology and management of breastfeeding mothers were highlighted to impress upon healthcare professionals the delicate balance involved in helping mothers establish exclusive breastfeeding in the early postpartum days. Many mothers set out with the goal of exclusive breastfeeding, but still in many countries, few reach their feeding goals. Studies clearly demonstrate that when healthcare teams have a clear understanding of these topics, provide antenatal education, and implement supportive hospital practices, the need for supplementary feedings in term neonates is rare.

Preventing the need for supplementation altogether should be a common goal for all members of the healthcare team. It has been well established in the literature that exclusive breastfeeding protects mothers and infants from various poor health outcomes, is cost effective, and is the physiologic norm. Thus, the authors of this protocol dedicated substantial time and focus on practices that have been shown to reduce this need, which include many of the ten steps required by the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. The revised protocol contains an algorithm for caring for the breastfeeding dyad before and during the birth hospital stay and responding to common concerns.

It is important to recognize true medical indications of supplementary feedings as well as the preferred choice and volumes of supplement, which are appropriately outlined in this protocol, re-emphasizing that, while there is a time and place for formula use, a mother’s own expressed milk or donated human milk in volumes that mimic normal breastfeeding physiology are preferable to breast milk substitutes. The preference for donor human milk over formula use has been suggested by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine for years, and is further supported by emerging research on the long term health consequences of the infant microbiome and the role that breast milk substitutes may have on individual health outcomes years down the road.

Educating ourselves as healthcare providers about how best to support mothers in their breastfeeding journey is crucial to their success in meeting their personal feeding goals. This revised clinical protocol highlights supporting evidence and contains information and strategies needed to provide state-of-the-art care and support.

Written by drharrel

April 4, 2017 at 12:22 pm

The Sixth European ABM Conference in Lisbon Portugal—A Win for Organizers and Attendees Alike!

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I returned from a trip to Europe over a week ago tonight, my first stop Lisbon Portugal. I celebrated one of those “big” birthdays in Lisbon, you know, the ones that end in a “0” or a “5” with 230 of my closest friends and colleagues in Breastfeeding Medicine from 23 nations around the globe.  Honestly!!  Well, they were not all there just to celebrate my birthday, although some did stay an extra day just to celebrate the day with us!!

What began this marvelous journey was an invitation from conference organizers Elien Rouw, MD, FABM (Germany), Monica Pina MD, ABM (Portugal), and Reet Raukas MD, ABM (Estonia) to speak at the 6th European Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Conference, held on June 17-18, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal.  Dr. Rouw has been behind these regional international conferences from the start, and is the mastermind in organizing them, along with local physicians and other like-minded organizations at various times in the countries in which they have been held.  The success she and her co-coordinators have had is a tribute to their hard work, their desire to bring quality physician education in breastfeeding medicine and related subjects to Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) members and other physicians and health care members outside the United States, and their tireless efforts to make these conferences affordable, with little support outside their own “blood, sweat and tears”.  This is in actuality a matter of equity and disparities in our field.  Many US physicians cannot afford to travel to Europe or Asia or Australia yet we expect our non-US colleagues to travel to the US yearly to the Annual conference, which is expensive for many of us even if we live in the US.  So do Dr. Rouw and her European colleagues accomplish their goals?  They most certainly do!!!  If one watches and grabs an airfare when they are at their lowest, even from the US this conference is very affordable, and the bonus is, no matter where you come from, you are treated to a beautiful European city, its gracious hospitality and phenomenal cuisine!

This success has built over the past 10 years. Former conferences have been organized in Germany (2007), Austria (2008), Poland (2010), Italy (2012) and Romania (2013).  The 6th Conference in Lisbon was organized in collaboration with SOS Amamentação Portugal and with support of the city council of Lisbon —the largest thus far, and buzzing with activity!!

The speakers and some attendees from outside Portugal stayed in a wonderful hotel that was noted as not far from the site of the conference. The morning of the 17th a bus was arranged to pick all of us up who were staying at the hotel an hour before the conference started to transport us the short distance to the conference venue, Auditório Polo ArturRavara ESEL, a relatively new site of the nursing school in Lisbon.  After a late arrival, we drove around for quite a while.  Turns out our (native Portuguese) bus driver was lost, because he got the wrong address!  So, we started the first day a bit late. Was this a problem?  Not at all!  Everyone rose to the occasion and soon the conference had begun in a beautiful and comfortable venue and we were all immersed in breastfeeding medicine! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by kmarinellimd

July 28, 2016 at 6:44 am