Saturday, March 27, 2010

Breast is Best?

I've been doing a good deal of reading up on nursing, feeding babies, and all that's related. We've got so many pregnant, nursing and weaning mamas around us here in Louisville that it's a constant field of study! =D

[Speaking of studies... One day when I'm grown up, I definitely want to try and track what dietary factors in the mother, prior to conception & during pregnancy, influence acid-reflux in babies. There's got to be some common denominator... some reason as to why some babies' digestive systems are immature, or why some moms have so much milk that it causes them to flood their babies out! I've got some ideas-- genetics (duh), being delivered too early (via induction, for instance, or a mom's illness); a factor affecting babies during the development of the stomach or intestinal tract in-utero (when is that, anyway?); the flooding of hormones into mainstream dairy & meat (if it makes cows give 5x as much milk as normal, what's it doing to us?)-- but nothing really to go on yet. Maybe someone out there will steal my question and do a whole dissertation on it... how cool would that be!? If anyone reading this knows of a book or article on the subject, please let me know!!!]

Sorry for that aside.

My real point in this post is to link to some articles regarding breast-feeding and its pitfalls. Several of my friends here and abroad have had real difficulties nursing their babies. Some were sabotaged by well-meaning nurses or doctors-- giving babies sugar-water in the hospital instead of allowing them to suckle their moms, or advising a mom to supplement with formula from the first day or two since her "milk wasn't adequate" (of course it wasn't adequate at first-- it hadn't come in!!), others seem to struggle despite everyone's commitment and best efforts. A few resources:

1. the Lact-Aid or supplemental nursing system (SNS)-- this seems a wonderful first step if a mom's having difficulty producing enough milk, but I can't speak from experience. It's basically a bottle that hangs around the mom's neck with tubes going down to her breast. The baby suckles at the breast and gets the supplement (either formula or expressed milk) as well as any breast milk there is, and also stimulates the mom, signaling a need for more milk. I haven't had to use it myself, but they claim that adoptive mothers have been able to start producing breastmilk for their babies this way, so I'm guessing it does work really well for some people! If you've used it, please comment!!

2. Article on lactation-friendly diet. If you are nursing or will one day attempt it, READ THAT ARTICLE!!! =D Since milk is made from and only from whatever is in the mom's body, it stands to reason that her diet THE crucial factor in defining her milk's nutritive content. Nursing moms not only need more calories, but more saturated fat, and more vitamins & minerals, especially iron and vitamin D, which are most often lacking in human breastmilk. I was really surprised when my doctor recommended I give Eowyn supplemental vitamin D, because it made more sense for me to take it, but most people don't think that way, I guess. It wasn't until I did some research that I was reassured that maternal supplementation DOES make it into the breast milk! The linked article is great at giving suggestions in this regard.

3. Articles on home-made formulae. If I wasn't in a community full of healthy nursing mothers whom I trusted, I'd really want to have this available. As it is, if I was struggling with milk production, I probably would ask several friends for some supplemental breastmilk to put in the SNS, just so I KNEW I had a back-up for a while, as I scarfed down whole fat dairy products, liver, and eggs. Apparently, relaxing really does wonders for milk production, and have no qualms against the old practice of "wet-nurses." But if I knew I wouldn't be able to nurse a baby long-term (foster care or personal illness), I'd probably make home-made formula, which mimics mother's milk really closely. I know of several babies who receive the milk-based formula I just linked to, and they are thriving. (for those with questions on the safety aspects of making your own formula, read this oh and in France, we were so pleasantly surprised to find raw milk in stores!! Just sitting there, ready to be drunk. The clerks looked at me sooo strangely when I asked if that milk had been pasteurized, just to be sure I was reading the label correctly!)

4. Some common milk-supply boosters (official term 'galactagogue': fenugreek, mother's teas)

I think we tend to put guilt on mothers who can't breastfeed, when this article makes it clear that some women really are genetically handicapped in this way. As the author points out, in nature some female animals are better milkers than others. (yes, I just compared myself to a cow...) Certainly there's always been variation from mom to mom on how much milk she makes. But what's exciting to me is finding out how many resources there are to minimize or even cure that condition, from lact-aids to galactagogues to nutritious homemade formulae. Most critical, I think, though, is the understanding of the diet that successful breast-feeding requires. Even if a mom makes enough milk, she may not make very nutritious milk, if she's eating the standard american diet.

Anyway, hope that is helpful to someone out there. If it isn't, store it against the day when it might be! :)

1 comment:

Jacqui O. said...

I am appalled at the paucity of research articles on this topic! Christina, the world needs more sensible people like you, who would choose to study the causes of disease/disorder (such as infant GERD) instead of merely comparing pharmacological treatments. The only article I could find that even remotely resembles your proposal is "Breast milk: biological constituents for health and well-being in infants" by F Savino and MM Lupica. I'd attach a link to it here, but only the abstract is free, and you can easily find that via Google. Perhaps you can email the primary researcher--if he speaks English (the original article is in Italian)!