subject: breastfeeding

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...

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...

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...

Prolactin Targets Intestines Too

Prolactin Targets Intestines Too

Prolactin (PRL) is a hormone that, as its name clearly indicates, PROmotes LACTation. Although it is best known for initiating milk production in the mammary glands, prolactin actually targets numerous other tissues throughout the body during lactation. One important target is the gut, where prolactin is believed to influence calcium absorption. A new study confirms this hypothesis, demonstrating that prolactin increases the ability of the intestines to absorb calcium and transfer it to the bloodstream. These important findings show that although PRL may have the important job of telling the mammary glands to make milk, it also plays a critical role in making sure that milk has all of the necessary ingredients. 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...

Why Mothers Should Boost Their Vitamin D Intake

Why Mothers Should Boost Their Vitamin D Intake

A mother's milk is the finest food her baby can get, but it's not perfect—or so it seems. It has become clear in recent years that most infants don't get enough vitamin D from breast milk—not by a long shot. Does this mean breast milk is inherently flawed, by some quirk of nature? A new study refutes this common belief by demonstrating that breast milk can indeed provide babies with enough vitamin D if their mother cranks up her vitamin D intake by more than 10 times the currently recommended amount. Read More...

Do Larger Breasts Make More Milk?

Do Larger Breasts Make More Milk?

Large breasts are often considered more attractive, but how about their function as organs destined to produce milk for the nourishment of the baby? During pregnancy and, particularly during lactation, women are mostly interested in their breasts as sources of food and growth signals for their baby. But, especially among women with breastfeeding difficulties, it is common for women to wonder, “If I had larger breasts, would I produce more milk?” Read More...