subject: breastfeeding

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...

Success Stories

Success Stories

Anyone involved in healthcare in the United States has probably heard that breastfeeding rates among African American mothers are much lower than those of any other racial grouping. As it happens, breastfeeding initiation rose by 8% in the African American community between 2000 and 2008, but the aforementioned gap still didn’t narrow. Research into the topic tends to focus on why these women aren’t breastfeeding, with studies often emphasizing statistical results, sometimes based on narrowly worded questionnaires. Recently, however, a nurse named Becky Spencer turned this perspective on its head: she has sought to understand African American breastfeeding successes. Read More...

Got Vegetables?

Got Vegetables?

One of the marvels of breast milk is that its composition stays roughly the same, even when working mothers have lopsided diets, or mothers in poor places cannot find enough to eat. That much is at least true for overall levels of the major components—the fats, proteins and sugars in milk. However, recent research has suggested that chemicals called carotenoids—natural pigments found in fruits and vegetables—appear in breast milk according to how much of them a mother eats. And when compared across countries, by some measures, American moms do a fairly poor job of providing their suckling infants with them. Read More...

Milk Banks Around the World

Milk Banks Around the World

As the benefits of breast milk have become better known and the world has become more connected, sharing or selling it has concomitantly become much more common. Milk banks are the most institutionalized method of milk sharing, and probably the safest, but different countries run them very differently. Read More...

The Amazing Mammary Memory

The Amazing Mammary Memory

Any dairy farmer or lactation consultant knows that first-time mothers don’t produce as much milk. The peak daily production for a first calf heifer may be around 70 lbs of milk while the same animal on its second lactation can produce 90 lbs of milk daily. Somehow the mammary gland seems to remember how to make milk and does a better job the second time. Why is that? Read More...

The Breast Milk Products of the Future

The Breast Milk Products of the Future

For several years now, as work on the health benefits of the constituents of breast milk has progressed, researchers have wondered whether their findings might benefit infants in ways other than encouraging moms and NICUs to feed them breast milk. In short, scientists have imagined that breast milk’s oligosaccharides, unusual and complex proteins and so on, could be bottled in some way, and provided quasi-medicinally to infants with particular needs, and perhaps even to sick adults. Science aside, the field has always been held back by a shortage of available human milk. But, with the Internet acting as an aggregator of many small-scale suppliers (mothers), a new world of breast milk-based products is beginning to open up. Read More...

Milk Banking in the 21st Century

Milk Banking in the 21st Century

The Internet has facilitated many new arrangements in breast milk sharing. Without sterilization or pasteurization, breast milk can pass pathogens to infants, particularly if there is an opportunity for bacteria to grow during shipping. Modern human milk banks include both non-profit organizations and for-profit strategies. For-profit companies may increase the overall supply of human milk, but some argue that they create new problems.   When historians look back on the past 15 years, they will undoubtedly characterize the period through reference to widespread use of its defining technology: the Internet. Among its many benefits, the Internet is a perfect tool for aggregating many small scale and widely dispersed suppliers, and enabling buyers and sellers of obscure products to locate one another. It has therefore facilitated the exchange of human milk. From Craigslist postings to Facebook groups, individual altruism to cooperatives with exclusive sales agreements with private companies, the online exchange of milk now takes many forms. Elena Medo is the CEO of Medolac, one of the new for-profit human milk companies. She also founded (and left) the other main player, called Prolacta, and in doing so launched what she says was the first human milk website, where would-be donors could apply online, and those who passed initial screening then received house-calls for blood testing. Medolac sources all of its milk from a cooperative, but elsewhere in the tentacles of the Internet, it is perfectly possible for mothers to receive direct payment for milk based on peer-to-peer online exchange. This, of course, carries at least the potential risk of pathogen transfer, or that unscrupulous sellers might add cows milk or some other product to increase sales volumes. Some people, however—including the CEO of HMBANA (the Human Milk Banking Association of North America), John Honaman—are entirely against moneymaking out of breast milk, […] Read More...