Entries in Breast Milk (6)


Breast Milk Blocks HIV Transmission in Mice, Study Finds

George Doyle/Thinkstock(CHAPEL HILL, N.C.) -- Women with HIV are often told by health care providers to refrain from breastfeeding for fear their breast milk will transmit the virus to their infants. But a new study released Thursday in the journal PLoS Pathogens suggests breast milk may kill the virus and protect against its transmission.

The study was done on mice, adding to the growing confusion as to whether it’s ever safe for women with HIV to breastfeed.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine fed mice whose immune systems had been engineered to mimic those of humans breast milk from healthy human donors that had been injected with HIV.

The researcher found that the virus could not be transmitted to the mice through the breast milk, and that the virus died when it entered the breast milk.

“We reinforced the belief, and we have solid data that milk is not a vehicle for transmission but may offer protection,” said Victor Garcia, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina, and a co-author of the study. “Milk should not be withheld from children.”

More than 15 percent of new HIV infections occur in children, according to the World Health Organization. If untreated, only 65 percent of HIV-infected children will live to see their first birthdays, and fewer than half will make it to the age of 2, WHO estimates.

For years, HIV experts have linked the virus in babies to breastfeeding. But most infants who are breastfed by HIV-infected mothers, even for long periods of time, do not become infected.

WHO recommends that infected mothers in some countries breastfeed their infants, and that both mother and infant take antiretroviral medication to avoid HIV transmission.

“One of the big breakthroughs of having this model is to look at what is affecting transmission,” said Garcia. “If milk isn’t it, then how is it being transmitted?”

Garcia said one way to answer that question might be to learn what it is in breast milk that kills the HIV and study whether it can be used to protect against other forms of transmission.

But the findings don’t mean that infected mothers should breastfeed their children without taking antiretroviral medications just yet, Garcia said. Future studies will look at milk from infected donors to see if the outcome will be the same, he said.

“Milk itself has an inhibitory effect,” said Garcia. “But from what we know so far, it seems like there won’t be a big difference.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Only One-Third of Moms Breastfeed for First Three Months

George Doyle/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Most new moms hope to exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least the first three months, but a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that, for a variety of reasons, only about one-third of those moms fulfill that breastfeeding goal.

CDC researchers surveyed nearly 1,500 pregnant women on their plans for exclusive breastfeeding after their babies were born, and then followed up with monthly surveys throughout the next year.  The scientists found that 85 percent of mothers planned to breastfeed exclusively for at least three months, but only about 32 percent were able to do so for the intended amount of time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that all women exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of babies' lives.

"While most of these women said they hoped to exclusively breastfeed for at least three months, very few actually succeeded in their goal," said Cria Perrine, co-author of the study and an epidemiologist in the division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the CDC.  "There is obviously a huge disconnect between these women's intentions and how they're able to follow through."

Perrine said many hospitals might not be as supportive as possible in helping women achieve these goals.  In the study, 15 percent of the women's babies had already been given some sort of supplement to their breast milk before even leaving the hospital, which can cause nipple confusion and make it difficult to breastfeed afterwards.

Moms who began breastfeeding within an hour of birth were more likely to breastfeed according to their goals.  Those who already had at least one other child and those whose babies were not given supplemental formula feedings were also more likely to reach their exclusive breastfeeding goals.

Women who were obese, smoked or had a longer intended exclusive feed time were less likely to reach their goals, the researchers found.

The study's authors concluded that increasing Baby-Friendly Hospital practices, which include giving only breast milk to babies in the hospital, might help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.  Its mission is to encourage hospitals to offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding by giving mothers information, confidence and skills to successfully initiative and continue breastfeeding their babies.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breastfed Babies Cry More, UK Study Finds

George Doyle/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- Breastfed babies cry more than formula-fed ones, but that’s normal, so stick with it.  Formula-fed babies may be quieter but overfed.

That’s the message the U.K. Medical Research Council wants mothers to take from a study published this week in the science journal PLoS One.

The British and U.S. governments recommend mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of a child’s life.  They cite research showing breastfeeding is healthier for babies and mothers.  Some researchers even say it makes children, especially boys, smarter.

In both countries, official statistics show three-quarters of new mothers follow this advice, but many give up in the first few months, if not weeks.  According to the latest U.S. data, 13 percent of those who tried completed the whole six months.

The most common reason given by women in Britain’s 2005 Infant Feeding Survey was, “Breast milk alone didn’t satisfy my baby.”

This means mothers perceive irritability as “a negative signal,” a Medical Research Council statement said, an interpretation perhaps few mothers would challenge.

However, “[R]ather than being a sign of stress, the researchers say irritability is a natural part of the dynamic communication between mothers and babies and should not deter women from breastfeeding,” the release continued.

And formula-fed babies, “may appear more content, but research suggests that these infants may be over-nourished and gain weight too quickly,” wrote the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Ken Ong, of University of Cambridge.

To study the link between infant temperament and feeding, the study asked mothers of 316 babies to rate their baby’s behavior at age three months.  Compared with formula-fed babies, exclusive breast-fed and mixed-fed babies showed “greater distress,” “less smiling” and “lower soothability,” according to the article.

Susan Burger, PhD, president of the New York Lactation Consultant Association, faulted the study for assessing babies’ temperaments using mothers’ self-reported data but agreed with the study’s goal of giving mothers more realistic expectations as a way to bolster breastfeeding.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breast Milk Banks Struggling to Meet Demand

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- The rising demand for human breast milk in neonatal intensive care units has prompted an impassioned plea from America's milk banks.

Donated milk, dubbed "liquid gold," can save the lives of preterm babies whose moms can't produce milk themselves.  But the 1.8 million ounces of milk distributed by non-profit milk banks across the country covers less than a quarter of the eight million ounces needed, according to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

"We need every healthy, breast-feeding mom to say, 'I want to be a donor," said Kim Updegrove, the association's president-elect.  "Then we'd have enough milk for every preterm baby. Even a small amount is lifesaving."

Human breast milk is rich in nutrients that help tiny preemies grow and antibodies that guard them against infections, which is why more NICU doctors are prescribing it.  Now three-quarters of milk bank orders come from hospitals -- up from 60 percent just last year.

But beyond those who need donor breast milk, few moms know about milk banks.  All prospective donors have to do is fill out paperwork online and provide a blood sample at a local lab.  The milk banks cover the cost of the screening process and, if approved, the cost of shipping and pasteurizing the milk.

"There's no cost to the donor," said Pauline Sakamoto, executive director of Mothers' Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif., and past president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.  But the recipient absorbs the cost, paying as much as $6 per ounce.

Today, there are 10 milk banks in the U.S., down from 30 in the pre-HIV 1980s.

For non-profit milk banks, the rising demand is bittersweet. On one hand, it reflects the growing appreciation for human breast milk's benefits.  But it also means the service is getting more expensive.  Instead of shipping hospitals a month's supply, the banks are forced to send milk as it become available, increasing shipping costs.

The increased price could mean more moms sharing online -- a practice discouraged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because of the risk of disease.  While the 10 milk banks under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America umbrella have strict standards for donor screening and pasteurization, informal milk sharing sites do not.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Blogger Says He's on Breast Milk Diet

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A blogger named Curtis has created quite an unusual mission for himself: to see how long he can sustain a diet made up solely of his wife's breast milk.

Curtis plans to document his experimental diet on his blog, "Don't have a cow, man."

On the blog, Curtis wrote that he is a first-time father to a baby girl who was born nine months ago.  Katie, Curtis' wife, has an extensive surplus of breast milk in the freezer.

Preferring the taste of breast milk over cow's milk, Curtis said he drinks breast milk to settle digestive problems.

"And yes, I know how weird this may sound, it is kind of weird to me as well but why not?" Curtis wrote on his first post.  "I mean cow milk was made for baby cows, why not drink human breast milk that was made for baby humans."

Curtis did not return ABC News' request for comment.

The breast milk consumer said he's 6-foot, 4-inches, weighs 185 pounds and estimates he needs about 2,000 calories per day, which he says equals about 66 ounces of breast milk each day.

After the first day, Curtis wrote that his hunger "is pretty much non existent and manifests itself mostly as thirst."

"I may even be sad when all this milk is gone from the freezer," he wrote.

But Martin Binks, clinical director of Binks Behavioral Health, questioned the logic behind the diet, since humans' needs change as they grow.

"While babies' digestive systems and nutritional needs are provided for in such a diet, as we develop into adulthood, our nutritional needs evolve in such a way that we need a balance of nutritional foods for good health, including fiber," said Binks.  "Breast milk cannot provide all we, as adults, need nutritionally and, in fact, [breast milk] has very high levels of cholesterol."

Curtis' wife, Katie, also took to the blog, saying she is a doula and childbirth educator.  While Katie donated her breast milk after giving birth to her other two children, she did not find a mother in need this time around, and shipping the milk and going through the necessary tests were too costly for the couple.

Binks argued that there are surely other children out there who could use Katie's milk surplus much more than Curtis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Using Breast Milk to Detect Breast Cancer?

ABC News(AMHERST, Mass.) -- Breast milk could hold the key to determining whether or not women are at risk for developing breast cancer, according to a study presented at the American Association of Cancer Research's 102nd annual meeting Monday.

Researchers at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst assessed breast milk from 230 women who were scheduled for or had a breast biopsy and analyzed it for three common genes implicated in breast cancer.  They found that levels of one of the genes was extremely high in women whose biopsies revealed cancer.

The study's authors concluded that the preliminary findings could lead to breast milk being used as a screening for breast cancer in women.  Of course, the screening would be limited to lactating women, so it would not be useful for breast cancer detection in the general population. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio