Monday, September 24, 2018

Benefits of Breastfeeding: Part 2

Last week we talked about some of the beneficial ingredients in breast milk, and some of the benefits that breastfeeding provides for babies. I thought that this week, we would focus more on moms.

In the early 1960's formula was being aggressively marketed to new mothers and their doctors. Women trusted the claims that formula companies were making regarding the benefits for baby. At that time, women were increasingly working outside the home, and very often did not have the means to make breastfeeding feasible while working. This made the convenience of formula quite appealing.
benefits of breastfeedingFast forward 50-something years...We now have lots of objective evidence with which to make an informed decision, as well as many ways to make breastfeeding work while still pursuing a career. We've come a long way!

Here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding for mom...
  • Quicker weight loss and return to pre-pregnancy weight
  • Saves money. Breast milk is free!
  • Babies who are breastfed develop better sleeping patterns, which is definitely a benefit for mom!
  • Decreased risk of postpartum depression
  • Fewer sick days taken at work, since baby will be less likely to be sick
  • Decreased risk of multiple types of cancer, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer
  • No need to prepare a bottle in the middle of the night, just put baby to the breast. Milk is always the perfect temperature!
  • No need to take prepared bottles (or a cooler to keep them in) when going out with baby
  • Decreased risk of diabetes and arthritis
  • Improved bone health over your lifetime
  • If you quit smoking during pregnancy, you have a decreased risk of picking up the habit again.
Here are some of the challenges of breastfeeding, and ways to address those challenges...
  • In the first week or two, you will have nipple soreness, which can be easily addressed, and is temporary.
  • Some women and babies have trouble getting the hang of breast feeding, which can lead to problems including mastitis (infection in the breast) or prolonged nipple soreness and cracking. This is something that can be prevented or remedied with breastfeeding classes, lactation consultation, and mentoring from women who have done it before. La Leche League International is a great organization which provides free mother-to-mother support, along with information and education for new breastfeeding mothers. There are also some great books on breastfeeding available.
  • You will need to pump and store breast milk if you are planning to continue breastfeeding once you go back to work, which I would highly recommend. This means buying or renting a breast pump, and carving out a little time at work to pump. Your employer is more likely to be supportive of you pumping at work if he or she is aware of the decreased health care costs and the decrease in absenteeism associated with breastfeeding. The cost of the breast pump while less than you would spend on formula overall, is not cheap. Some insurance companies cover the cost of breast pumps, and there are programs that help women without insurance coverage to get breast pumps for lower cost.
  • Some women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public places. There are many ways to breastfeed discreetly in public. I used a sling for keeping baby close, while keeping my hands free. I could feed baby while she was in the sling without anyone noticing at all. A light blanket is also very handy as a cover.
There are so many benefits for mother and baby from breastfeeding. If you are pregnant, I hope that you will seriously consider breastfeeding.
If you have any questions about breastfeeding, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Benefits of Breastfeeding: Part 1

I was a formula-fed baby myself, which is not surprising considering the year that I was born. In the late 50’s two "modern" baby formulas were introduced, Similac and Enfamil, both of which were aggressively advertised with exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims of health benefits for babies. These ads even subtly insinuated that breast feeding was less healthy and even "unclean". Who wouldn’t have chosen to use formula in the early 60s?

benefits of breastfeedingThe invention that had once been viewed as only emergency food for babies who could not be breastfed (for any number of reasons) was now a mass-produced product that was intended and expected to make money, and boy has it ever turned into a big industry!

Today, we know much more about the benefits of breastfeeding, which come from both the breast milk itself as well as the very act of breastfeeding. This information comes from a vast amount of research that consistently shows the significant benefits of breast feeding over formula for both baby and mom.

Breast milk is rich in certain fatty acids and proteins that are very important in brain and eye development. It also contains living white blood cells, millions per feeding, as well as immunoglobulins which are vital to providing baby with good immune function. Breast milk is also rich in digestive enzymes and multiple hormones which are helpful to baby. Another important difference is that the taste of breast milk varies depending on what mom is eating. This is important in helping baby to appreciate the taste of different foods, and develop a more varied diet as table foods are introduced.

Why are all of these things important? Here are some of the benefits breastfed babies enjoy….

  • Decreased risk of many common infections, including bacterial, viral, and yeast infections.
  • Decreased risk of many chronic health problems, including asthma, autoimmune diseases, allergies, celiac disease (gluten allergy), diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, some mental health conditions, and many others.
  • Improved biome (beneficial bacteria) in the gut. You may not realize this, but your body’s normal function relies significantly on having a really good balance of bacteria in your gut. This affects many aspects of health. Breastfeeding helps to establish this biome early in baby’s life.
  • Better hormonal balance.
  • Better immune system development and function, including improved effectiveness of vaccines
  • Improved development of motor skills, language skills, and intellectual function.
  • Improved vision
  • Decreased risk of developing obesity
  • Decreased risk of certain types of cancer.
  • Decreased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Closer bond with mom.
I am not trying to demonize formula. There are instances when it is life saving for babies whose mothers cannot breast feed. However, I do not believe that it should be considered an equal choice for feeding baby. It is not even on the same playing field. I chose to breastfeed both of my children, and it was the best decision I could have made!

If you have any questions about breastfeeding, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Meningitis Vaccine - What you should know

Infection caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis (also called meningococcus) is a very serious illness. It can cause meningitis, which is an infection of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, and can also cause infections in the blood, and can result in death or serious disability.

This infection often occurs suddenly, without warning, and can happen in people who are otherwise very healthy. It spreads easily from person to person, through close contact, or lengthy contact, especially among people living in the same household, or living in dormitories or military barracks. Meningitis can be caused by other bacteria and viruses as well, but the disease caused by Neisseria meningitidis is generally the most serious and most contagious.

Can we prevent meningococcal disease?

There are now vaccines against several subgroups of this bacteria. These vaccines do not prevent all cases of this infection, but they can prevent a large percentage of cases.

There are two types of meningococcal vaccines available:
  • Conjugate vaccines (Menactra or Menveo) protect against 4 subgroups (types A, C, W, and Y). These are the subgroups that cause most of the disease in adolescents.
  • Serogroup B vaccines (Bexsero or Trumenba) protect against only the subgroup B.
Who should get a meningitis vaccine?

The CDC recommends that all preteens and teens should be vaccinated with a conjugate vaccine at age 11-12, then a booster dose should be given at 16 years old.

The CDC also recommends that certain preteens and teens should get a group B meningococcal vaccine if they have particular risk factors that make them more susceptible to the infection.

Teens may get a group B meningococcal vaccine, between 16-18 years old, if they choose to do so, but neither the CDC, nor the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this routinely because disease from this subgroup is at historically low levels. However, if there is an outbreak in your child's community, this puts them into one of the high risk groups that should get the vaccine.

Vaccination with the conjugate vaccine is the best protection during the ages when they are at highest risk for this infection. Many colleges require proof of meningococcal conjugate vaccination within 5 years before starting school. I certainly would not have let my kids go to college without it.

If you would like more information about meningitis vaccination recommendations, you can check out this information from the CDC:

If you have any questions about Meningitis, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD - Health Tip Content Editor