Posts Tagged ‘breastmilk’

Buying breast milk online – is it safe?

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Amy-Hair-MD-PFWToday we welcome guest blogger Amy Hair, MD, neonatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hair specializes in neonatal nutrition.

Online shopping, in many cases, seems to be the way to go; it’s faster, cheaper and more convenient for the consumer than visiting the store. But, a study published in the May 2015 issue of Pediatrics shows convenience isn’t always best, especially when it comes to your infant’s health.

There are many reasons a mother may turn to purchasing breast milk. In the case of a premature birth, mothers may not be producing enough breast milk. In addition to lower production due to an early birth, the stress and shock that a mother feels after giving birth pre-term can be exacerbated by the requirements of expressing breast milk at all hours of the day and night. In many of these cases, a mother may think to buy breast milk online.

Online human milk donation and sharing has become more popular in recent years with an estimated 13,000 advertisements popping up annually on popular seller sites. Some mothers turn to the internet to obtain breast milk because purchasing it from milk banks can be expensive. Prices often range from three to five dollars an ounce, leading some people to refer to the commodity as “liquid gold.” Although many sellers may be posting and donating altruistically, not everyone has the purest of intentions, as proven by this new study.

Researchers tested 102 samples from donor milk advertised online and found that 1 in 10 samples were contaminated with cow’s milk. Of the 11 total samples which contained bovine DNA, 10 had enough contamination to be considered non-accidental. This contamination poses a large and dangerous risk to infants who may have an allergy or intolerance to cow’s milk. Additionally, the researchers found that nearly all of the bags of milk they purchased online arrived without meeting the correct temperature requirements for breast milk and that 75 percent of the samples had high levels of bacterial contamination or detectable levels of disease-causing pathogens, such as Salmonella and E. coli, which would make the milk unsafe for infant consumption.

Unlike milk bank systems that follow the criteria set by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), online sharing systems do not usually include the rigorous screening and pasteurization required by HMBANA banks. Without proof of regulated and monitored screening, the risks and dangers in receiving contaminated and sometimes infected human breast milk are present.

The bottom line is that when you purchase breast milk online, you don’t know if the milk you are receiving is safe. The risks of inadequate screening and pasteurization include viral and bacterial infection and remind us about the reality that some potentially-transmitted viruses and diseases are asymptomatic. Talk to your infant’s pediatrician about if you have any questions and you are not able to produce enough milk to feed your baby. You can also consult lactation support organizations for advice. Though we often hear “breast is best,” it is safer to supplement your baby’s nutrition with formula than unscreened donor milk.

Since January 2009, all infants at Texas Children’s Hospital weighing less than 3 pounds are fed specially tested, processed and pasteurized donor breast milk if their mothers are unable to provide enough of their own breast milk. As a result of this initiative, we had a large drop in our incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a devastating intestinal disorder, from the national average of 12% down to just 2-3%.

Whether your child is a patient in Texas Children’s NICU, a premature infant at another hospital or a healthy baby, try to take advantage of lactation support services in your area. The importance of mother’s milk to the health and development of newborn babies is priceless.

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Alcohol and BreastfeedingYou have waited many months and finally you have given birth to your beautiful baby! Now you want to celebrate with a glass of champagne, right? Don’t fill up your glass just yet. When you drink alcohol and then breastfeed your baby, she is exposed to a small amount of the alcohol you drink. Your baby eliminates the alcohol from her body at only half the rate you do. Therefore, it stays in your baby’s system, which is not good for her.

Don’t believe the myths

• It was once believed that drinking beer was a way to increase a mother’s milk supply, but that is not true. Research has shown that drinking beer does not increase your milk supply. In fact, drinking alcohol of any kind may decrease the amount of breastmilk your baby drinks. Alcohol can change the taste of your milk, which your baby may not like, and can result in your baby taking in less breastmilk.  Chronic drinking of alcohol may also reduce your milk production.

• Some people believe “pumping and dumping” (expressing breastmilk and then throwing it away instead of giving it to your baby) will get rid of the alcohol from your body quicker, but this is not true either. Pumping and dumping does not have any effect on how quickly alcohol leaves your body. However, if you miss a feeding session due to having had an alcoholic drink, then pumping and dumping will help you maintain your milk supply and avoid engorgement (when your breasts are swollen with milk to the point of hurting).

Bottom line

Avoid alcohol when you’re breastfeeding. However, if you have a drink, allow at least 2 hours per drink before your next breastfeeding or pumping session. This allows your body to have as much time as possible to process the alcohol out of your system before your baby’s next feeding. If you do drink alcohol, don’t have more than two drinks a week (one alcoholic drink is equal to a 12-ounce beer, a 4-ounce glass of wine or 1 ounce of hard liquor.)

You may also want to pump after your feedings when you have not had a drink. This way, you will have extra milk stored to feed your baby if you have been drinking when you need to breastfeed.

You also can pass street drugs, like heroin and cocaine, to your baby through breast milk. Tell your health care provider if you need help to quit using street drugs or drinking alcohol.

Keep your breasts healthy

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

breast self-examLadies, let’s remember to take care of the girls.  We have talked often about how breast milk is the best nutrition for your baby, how milk banking helps others, how you need to be careful with medications you take while you’re breastfeeding.   We have noted the weight loss benefits of breastfeeding, how employers now need to provide you with a place to pump when you return to work, and how some scientists think breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

These are all important things that you’ve heard more than once.  So, how come many women don’t receive or perform annual breast exams?  These should be performed at your annual well woman checkup. But you also should be protecting your health and your baby’s source of nutrition by doing breast self-exams.  Not sure how?  Click here for more information.

Breastfeeding chat

Monday, August 5th, 2013

breastfeedingBreastfeeding can be a wonderful experience, but it’s not as easy as it looks. It may be hugely beneficial to your baby, which it is, but there’s plenty to learn before your little one arrives. Join the experts: Robin Weiss, a doula, lactation consultant and author of Pregnancy & Childbirth at; Dr. Abieyuwa Iyare, a pediatrician and co-chair of the Breastfeeding Committee and Paula Ferrante, R.N., lactation consultant at Montefiore Medical Center; and our good friends at Text4baby.

Let’s talk. Did you breastfeed? If so, for how long? Did you continue to breastfeed after going back to work? What tips can you share with others? Where can we go for help?

According to new data released by the CDC, nearly 1 out of every 2 women in the U.S. is breastfeeding her baby up to the age of six months. That’s excellent news, but it doesn’t mean we can’t use some help in doing it right and getting more support.

Aug. 1 through 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. Join the conversation on Tuesday, August 6th at 1 PM ET. Be sure to use #pregnancychat to fully participate and get your questions answered.

Introducing solid food

Monday, March 25th, 2013

A new study from the CDC released in today’s journal Pediatrics revealed that 40% of mothers surveyed gave solid food to their baby before the age of four months. While the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend breastfeeding or formula feeding exclusively to the age of six months, many of the 1134 mothers involved in the study introduced cereal and fruit long before then, some as early as four weeks.

This early introduction of solid food occurred more than twice as often in women feeding with formula over breastfeeding women. The main reasons women gave for starting solids so early were “My baby was old enough,” “My baby seemed hungry a lot of the time,” “My baby wanted the food I ate,” “A doctor or other health professional said my baby should begin eating solid food,” or “It would help my baby sleep longer at night.”

This low adherence to infant feeding recommendations is of concern because, developmentally, younger infants are not prepared for solid food. Researchers have suggested that “early introduction of solids may increase the risk of some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, eczema, and celiac disease.” The health benefits of breastmilk (lower risk of ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea, diabetes, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome) are significantly impacted when women cut back on breastfeeding as they introduce solids.

When beginning solid foods in your baby’s diet, it’s important to know that solid foods are meant to complement your baby’s overall nutrition, not replace breastmilk or formula. During this transition, your baby’s primary source of nutrition should still be breastmilk or, if he is bottle-fed, formula.

Speak with your baby’s health care provider before introducing solid foods into his diet. Remember these things when you do start:
• Although you’re starting your baby on solid foods, you don’t need to wean him from breastmilk right away. Some babies may no longer have an interest in breastfeeding after 1 year of age. But breastfeeding can continue beyond the first year of life if mother and child wish.
• Don’t feed your baby solid or pureed foods through his bottle. This takes away from your baby’s overall learning about how to hold and eat foods. It can also put him at risk for eating too much and becoming overweight. It’s best to use a teaspoon to feed your baby solid foods. Also, feeding baby with a spoon plays an important role in your baby’s language development.
• Do not give your baby cow’s milk until he is at least 1 year old. At age 1, cow’s milk can become a major source of essential nutrients for your baby. Babies should be given whole milk until age 2.
• Do not give food or sweets to your baby as a reward for good behavior. Instead reward him with praise, kisses, love and attention.
• Practice good oral hygiene for your baby right away. As soon as he has teeth, start cleaning them with a small wet washcloth.

Banking your milk for other babies

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

bottle-feedingWe’ve all heard that “breast is best” for babies, but not every woman can breastfeed.  Some moms have had surgery or take medications that transfer to breast milk and are unsafe for the baby, or just don’t produce enough milk to sustain a baby.  Some babies have severe allergies or a failure to thrive.  Whatever the problem, moms might still be able to provide breast milk – just someone else’s.

Generations ago, women might bring in a wet nurse to help feed the baby.  Not so much today.  A donor milk bank is a service established for the purpose of collecting, screening, processing and distributing donated human milk to meet the specific medical needs of individuals for whom it is prescribed.

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America says donor milk banks receive milk from lactating mothers who have been carefully screened for health behaviors and communicable diseases, similarly to the way blood banks screen donors.  Milk is transported to the milk bank frozen. It is heat-treated to kill any bacteria or viruses, processed and then refrozen. It is only dispensed after a sample is cultured and shows no bacteria growth. Milk is shipped frozen by overnight express to hospitals and to individual recipients at home.

The milk is dispensed by physician prescription or by hospital purchase order only. There is a processing fee charged to cover the expense of collecting, pasteurizing and dispensing the milk.

The mission of the National Milk Bank is to provide premature and critically-ill babies with the best possible nutrition for survival and healthy development. If you are interested in donating or wish to learn more, click on the links above.

How long can you store breastmilk?

Monday, August 13th, 2012

bottle-feedingAs every breastfeeding mom will tell you, breastmilk is precious and you want to keep it around as long as it’s safe to do so. You can keep pumped breastmilk in the refrigerator or freezer in either bottles or bags made just for storing breastmilk. It doesn’t last forever, so be sure to write the date on the container before you store it. So, how long will it last?

• In the refrigerator (temperature must be 32-39 degrees F), breastmilk can be kept for 5-8 days.
• If stored in the freezer inside your refrigerator, it will keep for two weeks.
• If your refrigerator has a freezer with a separate door (top, bottom or side-by-side), it will keep 3-6 months.
• If you have a separate, stand-alone freezer, breastmilk will keep for 6-12 months.

When you’re ready to use it, thaw and warm the milk. Don’t put it in the microwave because it can get too hot in there. Instead, put a bag or bottle of frozen milk under cold running water. To warm milk, put the bottle or bag under hot running water or in a bowl of warm water. Shake the bottle or bag to even out the temperature throughout the container. Be sure to put a drop or two of milk on the inside of your wrist to test the temperature before giving it to your baby.

Is your baby getting enough milk?

Monday, June 11th, 2012

breastfeeding37468747_thmSince, unlike with a bottle, you can’t see what a breastfeeding baby is taking in, lots of new moms wonder if their baby is getting enough milk. Your body is pretty amazing. As you breastfeed, your body learns when your newborn needs more milk and, for most women, will make the exact amount your baby needs.

Feed your baby when she is hungry. For most newborns, this is about eight to 12 times over a 24 hour period, which averages out to about every two to three hours. But keep in mind that every baby is different and yours may want to feed more or less often than that. And as your baby grows, her feeding patterns may change, and she may wait longer between feedings.

Most babies feed for 15 to 30 minutes at a time at one breast. It’s OK if your baby takes more or less time. When she is finished with one breast, burp her and then switch to feed her from the other breast. It’s OK if she really isn’t hungry for more from the other breast – let her be the judge. Just be sure to start her on that other breast at the next feeding.

But what if you’re still not sure that she’s getting enough? She is getting enough if:

• She is gaining weight
• She is making six to eight wet diapers a day by the time she is five to seven days old.

If you’re still worried, here are some signs of infant dehydration:

• Not having a wet diaper for at least five or six hours.
• Urine that is darker in color and has a strong odor
• Dryness of the mouth and tongue.
• Crying without tears.
• Acting unusually cranky or sleepy
• A sunken appearance to the eyes, cheeks or fontanels.

If you think there is a possibility that your baby might be dehydrated, call her health care provider right away. He may want to see her to make sure all is well.

Breast pumps – buy or borrow?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

Mothers who are returning to work or school usually need a breast pump. How often you’ll need to pump milk depends on whether you’re feeding your baby only breastmilk or if you’re switching between breastmilk and formula.

There are a variety of pumps available. Women who pump infrequently often prefer manual pumps, while working women commonly like electric double pumps because they shorten the time it takes to use them. There are “open system” and “closed system” pump designs. In both designs, breastmilk flows through the breast shields and tubing and is deposited into containers. In an “open” system, it is possible for some milk to come in contact with parts of the machine.  In a “closed” system, none of the breastmilk can enter the machine, so it is safe for several women to use it by simply changing the shields, tubing and containers. A lactation consultant can help you evaluate your needs and choose wisely.

Shop around until you find the pump that works best for you. Prices for breast pumps vary depending on their features. Be sure to compare costs. Some health insurance companies help pay for a breast pump. Find out if your insurance covers the purchase of a breast pump. Many women will add a breast pump to their baby shower registry so that a few friends can pitch in together. But don’t forget that you will also need to purchase bags or bottles to store the pumped breastmilk.

You may also want to think about renting a breast pump. For many families, this is a cost-effective solution. If you choose to go this route, make sure you rent a “closed” system pump. Talk to your health provider or hospital staff for more information about where to rent a pump. Reusing a friend’s pump is safe, too, as long as you buy new accessories (tubing, storage bags, bottles, nipples). Talk to your health care provider if you’re interested in this option.

The breastfeeding doll

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

The March of Dimes is pro-breastfeeding, no two ways about it. Breast milk is the best food for most babies. We do recognize, however, that there are women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed and they should never be thought of as less than good mothers because of this. But we have been pleased to see the growing numbers of women who choose to breastfeed, even when they return to work.

That being said, there’s a lot of debate about something I saw on the news the other night. There is a new doll coming to the American market called The Breast Milk Baby which is aimed at teaching little girls how to breastfeed. The doll is made in Spain by Berujan Toys. It comes with a special halter top that has two flowers where nipples would be. When a little girl puts on the top and holds the baby doll up near the flowers, it makes suckling sounds. The company says it’s a great way for girls to play and learn, it’s fun and educational. We give little girls baby bottles with their dolls, why not this?

The March of Dimes does not endorse or recommend products. I’m writing about this simply to generate a discussion. While this doll appears to be very popular in Europe, it’s running into some controversy here. What do you think?