Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breastfeeding in the News

I've been reading a lot lately about breastfeeding and related topics in the news. Here's what's been going on lately:

  • Researchers from the University of Western Australia found that breastfeeding positively impacts academic performance. This is not the first study to conclude this, but this study was unique in that it found that boys in particular benefited from being breastfed for at least six months. "The study showed that, at age 10, boys who were breastfed for six months or longer scored higher in math, reading and spelling compared with boys who were breastfed for less than six months. Girls who were breastfed for at least six months showed a small improvement in reading."

  • President Obama has requested that "appropriate workplace accommodations" be made for federal employees who are breastfeeding their babies. "The order is required by the new health-care reform law, which mandates new breastfeeding rights primarily for hourly workers in the private and public sectors. But Obama asked the federal govenrment to go a step farther by establishing new guidelines for all federal employees, no matter their status...." I'm quite pleased that President Obama is setting a good example and helping to normalize breastfeeding by providing for federal employees who are also nursing mothers!

  • Along the same lines, The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog commented about a recent Associated Press article about the nursing mothers' rooms on Capital Hill. Affectionately called the "boob cube," the rooms are equipped with everything a woman could ever need to continue doing her job while pumping milk—including hospital-grade pumps and a TV tuned to C-SPAN. I agree with the sentiment, there's "nothing like C-SPAN to get your hormones going"!

  • Have you heard about Eats on Feets? It is an organization, (similar to MilkShare) that facilitates local woman-to-woman milk sharing through regional chapter pages on Facebook. If you are a nursing mother who has extra milk to share, check out your local Eats on Feets page on Facebook to get connected with a mom and baby who could use your help. I'm a big fan of milk sharing because human milk is the best food for human babies. Also, utilizing milk from milk banks for healthy babies can be cost-prohibitive and logistically complicated. I have a dream that someday, all parents who want to feed their babies breast milk will be able to do so for free, and for as long as they want. A girl can dream, right?

  • The Columbus Dispatch recently published an article called "FDA Sour on Online Breast Milk," highlighting the recent Facebook success of Eats on Feets and warning mothers of the dangers of accepting breast milk from strangers. I totally agree that parents accepting donor milk need to weigh the risks of accepting milk from people they don't know. What the article doesn't mention is that many recipients of donor milk require the donor to provide them with appropriate blood work demonstrating their not only their general health, but their HIV-status. Recipients of donor milk also have the option of flash-pasteurizing the milk they receive, as Shell Walker, one of the founders of Eats on Feets mentions in the article. The bottom line is, parents have to decide for themselves what risks they are willing to take and what precautions and/or screenings they want to take to prevent those risks. As Walker put it, "Yes, there are risks involved. I think it would be absolutely ridiculous for somebody to go to a dark side of town where illicit drug use and sex for money is more likely, and to approach a random woman and ask for her breast milk. Absolutely don't. Please, I beg you." Well said!

  • Even more publicity for milk donation: Actor Neil Patrick Harris (You know, Dougie Howser, MD!) talked on the Late Late Show about receiving donor milk for his baby girl. Among other things, he discusses the cost and the ridiculousness of someone in Santa Monica, CA having to ship her milk all the way to the milk bank in San Jose, CA to have it pasteurized, and then shipped back for his baby. All this shipping seriously affects the cost, which is already $3-4.50 per ounce before shipping fees.

  • One way to cut down on costs: establish more milk banks! The Northwest Mother's Milk Bank is still working hard to become a functioning milk bank. (Can you donate a few dollars to help the cause?) The closest banks to the Pacific Northwest are in San Jose and Denver, so for Oregon hospitals to provide donor milk (even from Oregon donors), it has to be shipped to one of those banks and then shipped back. Fortunately, even with the inconvenience of having to do this, one Portland hospital (soon to be two) is now offering donor milk to mothers who need to supplement their babies with breast milk. Donor milk had been previously available for babies in the NICU, but beginning in October, it became an option for healthy, full-term babies, too.

  • A bit of seasonally-appropriate milk-related news: Playing Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You was found to increase the milk production in goats at St. Helen's Farm in the UK. Funny story, but it relates to human-milk-producers, too. Breastfeeding Medicine wrote about a trial utilizing listening to a relaxation tape while pumping, and its effects on increased milk production (an average of 50% increase in production over the group who did not listen to the relaxation tape). I wonder what a little more relaxation could do for all of our other bodily functions, if it had that great of an effect on pumping!
What interesting things have you read lately?

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