Tuesday, December 18, 2012

EXCLUSIVE Breastmilk For Your Infant Matters!

So many of the new mothers that I have worked with recently have all had the same experience: well-meaning, but ill-informed nurses (with the encouragement of the overseeing pediatricians) at the hospital are "sneaking" or scaring the mother into feeding their newborn baby infant formula in addition to their breastmilk rather than supporting a mother's desire to exclusively breastfeed. We call this "supplementation." I have been shocked that this practice has been tolerated here in Kuwait and that there has not been a more appropriate cry of outrage from parents (and better training and education for nurses AND pediatricians.)

There is a reason why the WHO and every other medical organization in the world recommends EXCLUSIVE breastmilk for infants. Babies fed non-human milk during the first year of life have a higher incidence of:

  • respiratory disease, including pneumonia and bronchitis
  • diarrhea and other digestive illnesses
  • ear infections (4xs greater)
  • urinary tract infections
  • meningitis
  • sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Shocking as it may sound, research has shown that infant formula increases US infant deaths during the first year of life by 27%.

Infants fed non-human milk, who survive into adulthood, have a higher incidence of health problems as well: allergy, asthma, crohn's diseas, diabetes, hodgkins diseas, childhood leukemia, celiac disease, cancer, and obesity.

So if your baby was fed formula in addition to your breastmilk, isn't that still better than no breastmilk at all? OF COURSE! But there are some basic facts that you need to know about your infant's new and sterile body and how non-human milk (even a few bottles) can affects its development.

Infant's fed non human milk are at higher risk for disease. Immune factors (macrophages, leukocytes, secretory IgA, and more) exist in your colostrum and your mature milk. They bind microbes and prevent them from entering your baby's sterile and delicate tissues. They kill microorganisms and block inflammation, and promote normal growth of your baby's thymus (critical to normal immune function). The thymus in a baby who is fed nonhuman milk is subnormal in size, on average only about half the size of the thymus of an exclusively breastfed baby. These effects are even more profound on babies who have any health challenges.

Non human milk damages your infant's developing digestive system. Any non-human milk fed to your newborn baby increases your baby's risk of disease. A newborn's digestive system is sterile and immature at birth and needs help in creating the right environment for digestion. Colostrum creates this normal gut environment by encouraging the growth of good bacteria, and discouraging the growth of harmful bacteria (also helping baby's immune system develop properly). If even a small amount of formula or other foods are given, this changes the gut flora so that within twenty four hours, it resembles that of an adult, which is more vulnerable to harmful baceria and infection. Once a baby resumes an exclusive diet of human milk, it takes two to four weeks for the gut flora to return to normal.

Any non human milk increases your baby's risk of developing allergies. Colostrum also seals your newborn's gut to prevent harmful bacteria from sticking to it and penetrating. A newborn's intestinal tract is filled with open junctions between cells that will later become smaller. While these junctions are open, your baby is vulnerable to allergy triggers (antigens found in foreign proteins from cow and soy-based formulas) passing through the gut membranes and causing sensitization that can lead to future allergies or food tolerances.

This post is not meant to make mothers whose babies have been feed formula in addition to breastmilk feel guilty, but I do hope that it will give them and expecting mothers the information that they need to make informed decisions. The fact is, the health education community (including doctors and nurses) has not done a great job of being clear about this information. Even worse, mothers are sent conflicting messages by doctors and nurses who measure infant well being by calories and weight rather than a holistic and long-term view of infant development, who ignore their own scientific research and operate with a superstitious loyalty to man-made products, and who bully and scare mother's into believing that their colostrum is not enough. Not only is your colostrum enough, anything more puts your baby at higher risk.

What can you do in such a dysfunctional system? Be firm about your wishes when you are at the hospital, ask to see your infant's chart regularly so the staff understand you are monitoring the well-being of your infant, and probably most important of all, keep your baby with you in your room at all times if possible. Remember your baby belongs to you, not the hospital.

See: Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers, Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PH.D, IBCLC, 2010 for more information and for supporting research.

1 comment:

  1. When i was in high school we had a very informative lecture about breastfeeding by the ministry of health. Since then i was determined to bf my children, and i did!
    We need those kinds of lectures, they do make a change. I am now a teacher in high school. The same group gave a lecture about bf in our school and students came to me and asked me if i had breast fed my kids. It was funny.