Monday, April 6th, 2015
There is no disputing that the benefits of feeding an infant breast milk are huge, but not all mothers are able to produce enough milk to feed their newborns. This has caused many mothers (approximately 55,000!) to turn to the internet to purchase milk from other nursing moms.
However, new research conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital has proved that this is a potentially harmful decision.
Researchers found that what was being advertised as pure human milk wasn’t at all. “We found that one in every 10 samples of breast milk purchased over the Internet had significant amounts of cow’s milk added,” said Sarah A. Keim, Ph.D., lead author of the study and principal investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health in The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s. This is especially dangerous for infants under 12 months who lack the ability to digest cow’s milk properly, and for breastfeeding kids who may have a milk allergy or dairy intolerance.
“We don’t know for sure why cow’s milk was in the milk that we purchased, but because this milk was sold by the ounce sellers may have had an incentive to add cow’s milk or formula to boost the volume,” Keim told Parents.com. It’s likely that some sellers are profit-driven as breast milk is typically sold for $1-$2 per ounce.
And this is not the first time mothers have been warned against purchasing breast milk over the internet. In 2013, Keim and her team found that 75 percent of breast milk samples that had been bought online contained high levels of bacteria that could make an infant ill.
The only way to avoid contaminated, and possibly dangerous, breast milk, is to not purchase it at all. Mothers who are having trouble breastfeeding or pumping should seek the advice of a medical professional. “They should work closely with their pediatrician to come up with a plan for feeding their baby that meets their unique needs, in terms of how well they are growing, and if there are any medical conditions or allergies,” said Dr. Keim. “For mothers who want to breastfeed, early and high quality lactation support can be very helpful for many women in addressing problems that come up.”
Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for Parents.com who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She’s a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter: @CAITYstjohn
Image: Bottle with milk via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
Chinese researchers are apparently working on developing a synthetic breast milk based on the actual chemical makeup of real human breast milk, as Newser reports:
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China’s government is spending $1.6 million to make its own breast milk. The goal is an artificial version of the milk of Chinese moms—a project that involves studying the real stuff to develop what China Daily calls a “breast milk database.”
Existing baby formula in the country adheres to World Health Organization ingredient standards, but it might not be quite right for China’s infant population, Chinese researchers have said.
China is the world’s biggest baby formula market, with parents spending $15 billion on it last year, Quartz notes. As of last year, only 28% of infants in the country were breastfed, compared to 40% globally, per a Wall Street Journal report. The new effort follows a formula crisis in 2008 that saw thousands of babies poisoned.
Monday, March 10th, 2014
A study that is making headlines across the media and in parenting blogs suggests that the long-term benefits attributed to breastfeeding–such as lower risks of obesity, asthma, and behavior disorders–are actually more a function of the good health and socioeconomic status of mothers who breastfeed, rather than developmental effects of the breast milk itself. More from The New York Times:
Researchers at Ohio State University compared 1,773 sibling pairs, one of whom had been breast-fed and one bottle-fed, on 11 measures of health and intellectual competency. The children ranged in age from 4 to 14 years.
The researchers recorded various health and behavioral outcomes in the sibling pairs, including body mass index, obesity, asthma, hyperactivity, reading comprehension, math ability and memory-based intelligence. The study, published online in Social Science & Medicine, found no statistically significant differences between the breast-fed and bottle-fed siblings on any of these measures.
By studying “discordant” siblings — one of whom had been breast-fed and the other not — the authors sought to minimize the possibility that racial, socioeconomic, educational or other differences between families could affect the results. Many earlier studies on breast-feeding failed to control for such factors, they say.
Campaigns to increase the rate of breast-feeding have been highly successful in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about three-quarters of American mothers now breast-feed, compared with less than two-thirds in 2000, and about 49 percent are still breast-feeding at six months, compared with 34 percent in 2000.
Yet despite this increase, researchers have consistently found large socioeconomic and racial disparities in breast-feeding rates. A C.D.C. survey in 2008 found that 75 percent of white infants and 59 percent of black infants were ever breast-fed, and in 2013, the agency reported that 47 percent of white babies but only 30 percent of black babies were still being breast-fed at 6 months. Compared with bottle-fed infants, breast-fed babies are more likely to be born into families with higher incomes, have parents with higher educational attainments, and live in safer neighborhoods with easier access to health care services.
Still, sibling studies such as this latest one do not solve all the problems of bias. “We were not able to control for everything that could affect what would make a mom breast-feed one child and not the other,” said the lead author, Cynthia G. Colen, an assistant professor of sociology at Ohio State. “But we did control for premature birth, birth order, the age of the mother, and whether she was working when she had one infant and not when she had the other.”
Geoff Der, a statistician at the University of Glasgow who has worked with the same data in previous studies, said that the findings in the present study were robust and the authors’ method for eliminating selection bias was powerful. He had reassuring words for women who do not or cannot breast-feed.
“In a society with a clean water supply and modern formulas,” he said, “a woman who isn’t able to breast-feed shouldn’t be feeling guilty, and the likelihood that there’s any harm to the baby is pretty slim.”
Image: Baby having a bottle, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013
Breast milk that is either donated or sold online is often tainted with bacteria that could sicken a baby, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics. The growing industry of donated or commercially available breastmilk is unregulated, and so is difficult to track and maintain safety measures. More from The New York Times:
“The study makes you worry,” said Dr. Richard A. Polin, the director of neonatology and perinatology at Columbia University, who was not involved in the research. “This is a potential cause of disease. Even with a relative, it’s probably not a good idea to share.”
After a spate of research showing that breast milk protects infants from infections and other ailments, health care providers in recent years have strongly encouraged new mothers to abandon formula and to breast-feed. But this can be a difficult challenge. Parents who have adopted, for instance, or have had mastectomies — or who simply do not produce enough milk — often rely on donated or purchased breast milk.
“Milk-sharing” Web sites host classified advertisements from women wishing to buy, sell or donate breast milk. “My daughter is two months old and has gained five pounds and grown three inches since birth!” reads one ad. “I have a serious oversupply and I am looking to free up room in my freezer.”
Some sites discourage paying for breast milk, while others actively endorse the practice. Advertisements from some sellers play up the convenience and price, which can be as low as $1.50 an ounce. But many women wish to donate milk simply to help out fellow mothers in need.
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Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) finds that breastfeeding women can safely use many medications without harming their infants.
Experts from the AAP Committee on Drugs also noted that some doctors give moms inaccurate advice that they must quit nursing or stop taking certain medicines to keep their babies safe. From Reuters:
“Sometimes people are told that, because physicians may be worried about the risks the drug may pose … and aren’t necessarily thinking about the potential benefit of breastfeeding,” Dr. Hari Cheryl Sachs, the lead author on the report, said.
That benefit includes a lower risk of ear infections, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Sachs said properties of the drug itself, whether it’s being used on a long- or short-term basis and the age and health of the infant all affect how safe it is to use medication while breastfeeding.
“It’s hard to make a blanket recommendation on what drugs are fine for the mother, because it’s going to depend on multiple factors,” Sachs, from the Pediatric and Maternal Health Team in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told Reuters Health.
If breastfeeding women have questions about specific medications, Sachs recommends that they talk with their doctors and check LactMed, a website run by the National Institutes of Health. Again from Reuters:
[LactMed] includes the most up-to-date scientific knowledge on how much of a given drug is passed to an infant during breastfeeding, its effects on babies and possible alternatives to consider.
In its report, published Monday in Pediatrics, the committee focused on a few classes of drugs, including antidepressants, narcotics and smoking cessation aids.
Limited information is available on the long-term effects of antidepressants on babies, it wrote, and because the drugs take a long time to break down, levels could build up in infants’ bodies.
“Caution is advised” for certain powerful painkillers such as codeine and hydrocodone—but others including morphine are considered safer when used at the lowest possible dose and for the shortest possible time, pediatricians said.
Nicotine replacement therapy, especially gum and lozenges, is typically considered safe to use during breastfeeding, according to the committee. However the FDA discourages the use of stop-smoking drugs such as varenicline, marketed in the U.S. as Chantix, among women who breastfeed.
The risk of exposure to any drug for babies needs to be weighed against the drug’s importance for the mother as well as the benefits of breastfeeding, researchers noted.
Image: Prescription medication via Shutterstock
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