Breastfeeding- New Study & A Mother’s Challenges
Breastfeeding and its benefits to mother and newborn are well known. Mothers who are privileged enough to be able to breastfeed would concur that though it is demanding on their body, time, and psyche, the bond that forms between them and their little bundle of joy is beyond description. And the benefit to their child is well worth it. Of course, not every mother is privileged or even chooses to breastfeed. As a young mom and one with a career that is demanding, I routinely find myself in conversations with female colleagues, patients, and friends who are either very much pro or against the science behind the benefits of breastfeeding in the 21st century. Some of these individuals are heated in their opinion and views, and I certainly respect their conclusion (and definitely do not think my post here can or should change their opinion). But, there are so many of us (specially career professional) mothers who grapple with the guilt of not breastfeeding or the burden of pumping throughout our work day and dealing with the consequences. I hope to speak to these mothers here, as a proud mom who wants nothing more than the best for her child and is not able to put her career on hold while breastfeeding is added to the daily responsibilities.
Breastfeeding is great-
The indisputable benefits of Colostrum in breast milk include its antibodies and nutritious content. After the first few days, the mother’s milk continues to matures, become more liquid and titrated by the perfect balance of sugars, proteins, water, antibodies, and hormones to keep the growing infant growing. This lighter liquid is easier to digest than most cow-derived formulas currently on the market. Few scientists or mothers would disagree with these facts. There are also benefits for the mother that should be acknowledged. That said, the notion that breastfeeding is the wonder drug that fixes everything and the more the merrier is definitely wishful thinking. Many infants and mothers thrive with alternative options.
More to it than meets the eye-
A recent study from Ohio State compared siblings between ages 4-14 years of age and its findings stirred up plenty of controversy. The study suggested that breastfeeding might not make any real difference in 10 out of 11 long-term health outcomes. The reported findings were that formula fed babies weren’t any more likely to develop obesity, allergies, hyperactivity, increased Body Mass Index (BMI), or parental attachment difficulties as compared to their breastfed siblings. In all fairness, there are hundreds of studies that show a whole array of breastfeeding benefits, but here’s one that throws a wrench in their conclusions. While the Ohio study has its own deficiencies, it highlights the fact that the hardcore fans on both sides need to loosen up their stance and realize there is no clear cut, one-size fits all recipe.
Its a matter of choice-
In today’s dynamic family environment, the classic picture of a stay at home mom, working husband, two children and their dog living in a house with a white picket fence and a blue door is more of a rarity than the norm. Our busy lifestyles require more flexibility and support, less guilt and judgement form the society at large. The decision to breastfeed or not and how long to continue should be a process of self reflection, analysis of the parents’ circumstances and resources, followed by a series of trials and adjustments. This process should be lead by the mother with the father, siblings, extended family, and outsiders playing their best support role. The community, including the workplace and government agencies should view pregnancy and newborn care as a time of much turbulence for the mother and be prepared to provide resources rather than judgement for the new mother. It would be amazing if more and more mother could breastfeed or choose not to free of guilt, in the manner they find is best for their child and family with resources to help them make that decision and carry it out.
There is an new breastfeeding initiative website by the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you’re in the process of making your decision, here’s a good site to start with.
Dr. Eftekhari is a proud San Diego native. She received her doctorate from University of the Pacific School of Pharmacy in 2003 as one of their youngest ever graduates. She enjoys the challenges and rewards of interacting with her young patients and their parents as the Director of Pharmacy Services and Clinical Pharmacists at the Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital in Loma Linda. She loves balancing her career and being a mother to her 3 year old active little man, Arman. At home, when she’s not chasing after Arman, she enjoys dancing, cooking, and swimming.