subject: breast milk

Colostrum Through a Cultural Lens

Colostrum Through a Cultural Lens

In the first hours and days after a human baby is born, mothers aren't producing the white biofluid that typically comes to mind when we think about milk. They synthesize a yellowish milk known as colostrum or "pre-milk." Colostrum is the first substance human infants are adapted to consume, and despite being low in fat, colostrum plays many roles in the developing neonate. Historically and cross-culturally, colostrum was viewed very differently than it is amongst industrialized populations today. Read More...

Milk for Ill and Pre-Term Infants

Milk for Ill and Pre-Term Infants

Unadulterated, fresh, and straight from the breast, experts agree that human milk is the best option for healthy infants. Not only does it provide the macronutrients essential to fuel and build young bodies, it actively stops infants from getting sick by dosing them with immunoglobulins and sugars that are indigestible by humans. A recent review offers a summary aimed at clinicians about how human milk may be modified to cater for the particular needs of pre-term and sick infants. Read More...

Drugs to Prevent HIV Infection are Barely Present in Human Milk

Drugs to Prevent HIV Infection are Barely Present in Human Milk

The World Health Organization considers someone with more than a 3% chance of contracting HIV in the next year to have a “substantial” risk of infection. This is important because it is the cut-off for which the WHO recommends taking anti-retroviral drugs, like tenofovir, to reduce the odds of infection. Breastfeeding women in sub-Saharan Africa easily meet this risk threshold. But medical professionals are discouraged from offering the drug to these women because of WHO warning labels about potential adverse reactions in nursing infants. That advice may now change, paving the way for many more at-risk women to receive HIV prophylaxis. A new study shows that when infants consume human milk from a woman taking tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine, they are exposed to extremely low levels of The World Health Organization considers someone with more than a 3% chance of contracting HIV in the next year to have a “substantial” risk of infection. This is important because it is the cut-off for which the WHO recommends taking anti-retroviral drugs, like tenofovir, to reduce the odds of infection. A new study shows that when infants consume human milk from a woman taking tenofovir in combination with emtricitabine, they are exposed to extremely low levels of either drug.drug. Therefore, the infants’ likelihood of experiencing adverse reactions is virtually non-existent. Read More...

From Bench to Bedside: Translating Milk Science at the Clinician-Patient Interface

From Bench to Bedside: Translating Milk Science at the Clinician-Patient Interface

Emerging empirical research from chemistry, microbiology, animal science, nutrition, pediatrics, and evolutionary anthropology is accelerating our understanding of the magic of milk. Understanding the context and experiences of mothers of different races highlights the persistence of health care deficits that perpetuate breastfeeding disparities. Read More...

Human Milk Lowers Risk of Retinopathy Among Preterm Infants

Human Milk Lowers Risk of Retinopathy Among Preterm Infants

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a common affliction of very young preterm infants that can lead to blindness. It occurs when the blood supply to the retina develops abnormally. In some cases, this problem is so severe it can cause the retina to detach from the back inner wall of the eye. Decades ago, medical researchers demonstrated a difficulty in the care of the tiniest preterm infants: supplying these infants with lots of oxygen improved their chances of survival, while at the same time increasing their risk of ROP. A recent meta-analysis, however, offers more straightforward advice to neonatal intensive care units: Providing human milk to a very young preterm infant—whatever amount is available—significantly reduces the risk of the disease. Read More...

Human Milk Makes People Smarter at Age 30

Human Milk Makes People Smarter at Age 30

Experts generally agree that consuming human milk as opposed to formula during infancy has a beneficial effect on brain development, and consequently, a beneficial effect on intelligence. Although there are swathes of studies on this topic, often the methods available to researchers are criticized—and imperfect methods make drawing firm conclusions risky. Furthermore, almost all studies in this field test intelligence during childhood and teenage years only, even though we know that cognitive functions continue to develop well into adulthood. Without data from older study participants, the field cannot be certain that people who do not receive human milk in early life don’t catch up on cognitive development later. Read More...

Consuming Human Milk in Infancy Linked to Longer Telomeres

Consuming Human Milk in Infancy Linked to Longer Telomeres

Telomeres can be thought of as tags on the ends of chromosomes that, in protecting those ends, are also guides to cellular aging and, consequently, to lifespan. Telomere length decreases as we age, dropping off most rapidly in the first four years of life. Now a team at the University of California, San Francisco reports that feeding an infant human milk appears to lower the rate of telomere shortening until at least the age of five. Read More...

The Dynamic Human Milk Proteome

The Dynamic Human Milk Proteome

Babies change a great deal in six months. Beyond the obvious that they grow bigger, considerable development occurs in all aspects of the infant’s physiology and anatomy, especially the brain, gastrointestinal tract, and immune system. New technologies have enabled scientists to discover which proteins are in milk and how they change over time to support this unique developmental period. Read More...

Breast Milk, the Synchronizer

Breast Milk, the Synchronizer

Consuming a glass of warm milk before bed is supposed to make you sleep well. This old wives’ tale is repeated on websites that offer health and nutritional advice, often backed up by the detail that milk contains tryptophan, the amino acid that is the reason eating turkey purportedly makes you sleepy. But the reality is much more complex. In fact, several compounds in milk appear to have a soporific effect. And perhaps the most intriguing thing about them is that their levels alter with the time of day that the milk is produced. Read More...

Breastfeeding Protects Women Against Cancer

Breastfeeding Protects Women Against Cancer

Cancer cure or prevention? An enormous amount of research and funding is channeled into finding a cure for cancer, yet less attention is paid to factors that prevent it. Certainly, there is not one magical practice to prevent cancer, as research shows that our cancer risk is influenced by many factors, one of which is breastfeeding. Read More...