Longer breastfeeding tied to better development

ASL-030110HEALTHQABREASTFEEDING-1FEIMUKA_FNC_030110_16-32This is a great article that I found that was published December 26, 2013Reuters.

Longer breastfeeding tied to better development

Children who were breastfed for more than six months scored the highest on cognitive, language and motor development tests as toddlers, in a new study from Greece.

Earlier research tied breastfeeding to better thinking and memory skills. But how it’s related to language skills and movement and coordination had been less clear.

The new study doesn’t prove breastfeeding is responsible for better development, but it shows a strong association, researchers said.

Most evidence “pretty clearly shows there are significant medical benefits of breast-feeding,” Dr. Dimitri Christakis told Reuters Health in an email.

Christakis is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute. He was not involved in the new study.

“I think that the evidence is now of sufficient quality that we can close the book on these benefits and focus instead on how do we succeed in promoting breast-feeding because all of the studies, including this one, that have looked at it have found a linear relationship, which is to say that the benefits accrue with each additional month that a child is breastfed,” he said.

For their report, Dr. Leda Chatzi from the University of Crete and her colleagues used data from a long-term study of 540 mothers and their kids.

When the babies were nine months old, the researchers asked mothers when they started breastfeeding and how long they breastfed. They updated the information when the children were 18 months old.

Psychologists also tested children’s cognitive abilities, language skills and motor development at 18 months.

About 89 percent of the babies were ever breastfed. Of those, 13 percent were breastfed for less than one month, 52 percent for between one and six months and 35 percent for longer than six months.

Children who were breastfed for any amount of time scored higher on the cognitive, receptive communication and fine motor portions of the test than children who weren’t breastfed.

Scores on the cognitive, receptive and expressive communication and fine motor sections were highest among children who were breastfed for more than six months, the researchers reported in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

For instance, on cognitive assessments with a normal score of 100, toddlers who were never breastfed scored about a 97, on average. Kids who were breastfed for more than six months scored a 104.

Chatzi and her colleagues expected to see more breastfeeding than they did.

“We were surprised by the fact that breastfeeding levels in Greece remain low, even though there is an ongoing effort by the Greek State to promote breastfeeding practices,” Chatzi told Reuters Health in an email.

Christakis pointed out that in the United States, about 60 to 80 percent of women start breastfeeding their babies, but by four months less than 30 percent are still breastfeeding.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding – without any formula or solid food – until a baby is six months old, followed by breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate foods through age two.

“One of the reasons we see such a big drop off in the United States and elsewhere around four months is because women return to work,”
Christakis said.

“The real challenge we have is with sustaining breast-feeding,” he said. “I believe very strongly that we need a public health approach to doing so because these are public health issues – improving child cognition and improving in this case as they showed a child’s physical development, benefits society as a whole and society has to support women achieving that goal.”

“We need to have baby-friendly work places that help women continue to either breast-feed or pump when they return to work,” Christakis said.

“There’s that African proverb, ‘it takes a village to raise a child,’”
he said. “It takes a village to breast-feed a child as well, and all sectors have to contribute.”

The Science of Mother’s Milk

Because someone with Dr in front of his or her name says it stops at 6 months, here’s the truth.

The Science of Mother’s Milk

Ayala Ochert
From New Beginnings, Vol. 28 No. 3, 2009, pp. 28-29

Most mothers are aware that breastfeeding boosts a baby’s immune system, but few of us could say how. “It’s something to do with antibodies,” we might answer vaguely. Now there’s a brand of formula on the market claiming to “naturally strengthen your baby’s immune system;” it also says it is “inspired by breastmilk” and “supported by science.” To understand these claims we need to delve a bit deeper into the real science of breastmilk and find out how it actually supports a baby’s developing immune system.

It turns out that there is much more to the story than just antibodies, important though they are. Breastmilk contains literally thousands of different components that support the immune system in some way. Some of these components are very specific, defending against a particular pathogen (bacteria, virus, parasite), while others have a broader function, protecting the baby in many different ways. Often these various components act together, providing even more protection than each would alone.

The brand of formula in question says it contains a “unique patented mix of special prebiotics” — sugars that are naturally found in milk and which are a source of food for so-called friendly bacteria (probiotics). Having a healthy mix of friendly bacteria in the gut is important for overall health because 80 percent of the immune system is located here, and the “good” bacteria can help to push out the “bad” bacteria that can cause disease.

But prebiotics are more than just food for bacteria. There are hundreds of different types of these special sugars — properly known as “oligosaccharides” — and the milk of each animal species contains a distinctive mix. (In fact, the precise mix varies from individual to individual, so each woman has her own unique blend — though not patented, of course!) After fat and lactose, oligosaccharides form the third largest solid component in human milk (the proportion in colostrum is even higher), but they used to be dismissed by scientists as just a useless indigestible by-product of milk production. Now it is clear that they actually have a very important function.

Human milk has been found to contain 90 different oligosaccharides forming over 900 different chemical structures, each of which can block infection by preventing a particular strain of bacteria from sticking to the gut wall. (I don’t know how many oligosaccharides are found in this formula with the “patented mix,” but we can safely assume it does not contain 90 different types, in 900 different forms.) Unlike antibodies, they are able to protect a baby from bacteria or viruses that a mother has never been exposed to. What is more, oligosaccharides are just one in a class of human milk components — there are others called glycoproteins and glycolipids — that work by blocking the attachment of microbes to the cells of the gut, so preventing infection.

Human milk is relatively low in protein compared to the milk of other species, yet the primary function of two of the major proteins in milk — antibodies and lactoferrin — is not nutrition but defense against infection. Most milk antibodies are made of a special form of protein called SIgA, which is particularly resistant to digestion. A mother’s milk contains antibodies to pathogens that she’s recently been exposed to. Chances are, the baby has been exposed to the same pathogens. These SIgA antibodies stick to microbes and stop them from attaching to and infecting cells in the gut. They also make their way into the nose and mouth, where they can defend against airborne diseases.

While each antibody is specifically designed to target one particular pathogen, the major milk protein lactoferrin acts more broadly. It can directly kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi, and it also has an anti-inflammatory effect, which helps reduce the pain, swelling, and high temperature associated with infection. Because lactoferrin is quite resistant to digestion, it passes into the urine relatively unchanged and so helps prevent urinary tract infections. Lactoferrin also helps to encourage the growth of friendly bacteria in the infant’s gut. Human milk contains particularly high levels of lactoferrin and, significantly, human lactoferrin is distinct from that found in the milk of other species.

In addition to these there are many other components that are known to play a role in supporting the immune system. The list includes alpha-lactalbumin, lysozyme, lipids, milk fat globules, nucleotides, defensins, cytokines, hormones, growth factors, anti-secretory factor, leucocytes, neutrophils, macrophages, lymphocytes, and more. The more you find out about these remarkable substances, the more apparent it becomes that mother’s milk is important for babies. As the research scientist David Newburg puts it: “My thinking on milk has changed totally. I used to think of it as the best source of nutrition. Now, it’s looking like milk is really designed to be protective.”

A newborn baby’s immature immune system relies heavily on this protection. Colostrum, the milk produced in the first days after birth, contains higher concentrations of many of these substances. The infant immune system matures during the first year, and is more mature at age two, but the immune system does not reach full maturity until the child is around six years old.

So it’s reasonable to assume that mother’s milk gives a useful immune boost for as long as a child is breastfeeding. But what about once they stop? Happily, the effects of breastfeeding on the immune system continue throughout life. This is because breastmilk contains components that direct the development of a child’s own immune system. For example, it was found that the thymus — a central organ of the immune system — is twice as big in breastfed infants compared with formula-fed infants at four months. The size difference was also seen at ten months. Researchers attribute the growth of the thymus in breastfed infants to two components of human milk, IL-7 (a cytokine) and leptin (a hormone). Since the thymus continues to grow throughout childhood, it seems likely that breastfeeding enhances the growth of the thymus for as long as breastfeeding continues.

The main role of the thymus is in the development of the immune system. It grows steadily in early life and then abruptly stops at puberty and starts to shrink and gradually disappear during adulthood. During those early active years, bone marrow cells enter the thymus and mature into T cells, which then spread to the rest of the body. There are several different types of T cells, all vital to the proper functioning of the immune system — one sort finds and recognizes pathogens and can kill them directly; other types of T cell can instruct other cells of the immune system to kill. Yet others have the role of directing the production of antibodies. Another vital function of the thymus is to learn to recognize the body’s own tissues so that the immune system doesn’t attack them, as happens in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.

Since breastfeeding is the biological norm, and since organs of the immune system like the thymus can only develop to their full potential through breastfeeding, an inevitable conclusion must be that people who were never breastfed (or those who were weaned too early) will have deficient immune systems — not just in infancy but for the rest of their lives.

From the outside, babies seem to grow well on formula — they certainly get bigger and longer. But on the inside their vital organs may struggle to grow adequately without support from mother’s milk, which has evolved to meet their needs. Perhaps one brand of formula can argue that it is marginally better than another brand, but can it possibly claim to be “inspired by breastmilk” or to “strengthen the immune system”? Those are claims that the real science simply does not support.

Refer to

Hanson, L. A. MD, PhD. Immunobiology of Human Milk: How Breastfeeding Protects Babies. Pharmasoft Publishing, 2004.

Testimonial: Josslyn Streett

“Cass Romero has been there for me with breastfeeding help, advice and comfort anytime I needed her through both of my boys breastfeeding years.  If it weren’t for her I would have given up and my boys would not have known the health and emotional comfort that they have been blessed with due to breastfeeding.  My oldest son couldn’t suck hard enough to latch on properly in the beginning.  We did not supplement with formula by Cass’ advice, but I did pump and bottle feed in the beginning.  I seriously wanted to breastfeed and Cass stuck with me for an emotional eight weeks until Robby finally was back on the breast full time.  He breastfed, by his choice for three years.  He’s never been sick, not one day.  Also, he is a kid who very badly needed the extra comfort that comes with the one on one contact with his mother through breastfeeding.  I’m glad I don’t have to know how he would be emotionally today without all that extra touch and attention he received.


With my second son, Sawyer, the latching on went well after my home-birth but I had other issues.  I once called Cass with a desperate call of a lump in my breast I had not had before with Robby.  I did not know at the time that she was on vacation with her family.  She called me back and stayed on the phone with me from out of state until she knew I was calm and able to work through the issue.  She helped with logical advice and information that could help me right then and there.  She was always comforting, supportive and positive that no matter what we could work through the issues.  My younger son is now 8 and a half years old.  He breastfed by choice for four years and two months and also has not been sick more than the cough he had last week.  I’m so grateful for Cass for her caring, compassionate and diligent friendship to me, my family and breastfeeding for all.  Thank you Cass for all you did for my family.  We are all truly grateful.”


Josslyn Streett, Sequim, WA

Am I a “lactivist”?

I do not consider myself a lactivist – but I do NOT support formula companies and their practices. Breastmilk is meant for your baby. It’s the best thing for your baby. It is the only perfect food they will ever receive. I feel that my role in this community is to Inform, Educate and Support breastfeeding families. I want you to get the right information; I am not spewing opinions or one sided insights. It is my goal to have the most up to date information and to help you get that information. I take this seriously, and it is my passion to normalize breastfeeding once again, but I am not going to shove information down the throats of the unwilling. I am not going to tell you it’s my way or no way. I want to educate you on the benefits of breastmilk and the dangers of formula. What you choose to do is your decision. I feel that putting out the information is my job; what you do with it is your job. My goal is to get babies and families to understand how amazing and rewarding this journey can be.

Journey Begins

I am so excited to begin this journey! Breastfeeding has been my passion for many years, and now I get to be of service in many other ways. I cannot wait to share this journey for many years with many families. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Successful Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the most important things you can offer your child. Breast milk is the only perfect food he or she will ever have. Breast milk is an amazing substance. It changes with the time of day and the time of year. It even changes to supply what the child needs at the time. Here are some tips to help you build a successful breastfeeding relationship.

First and foremost, get a support group around you. Surround yourself with people who will support you and help you with breastfeeding. Building your support system can be very helpful before you have the baby, as well as after. Breastfeeding can be a learning experience for both mom and baby so having the right support can make a world of difference.

Nurse the baby as soon after birth as possible; with in the first half an hour is ideal. Some babies will crawl to the breast if placed on Mom’s stomach and find the breast on their own. Babies’ natural instinct is to find the breast. 
Avoid artificial nipples of any kind for the first 6 weeks so that the breastfeeding relationship can become established and get on the right track.

Breastfeeding works through demand and supply. The more the baby demands (is at the breast), the more your body knows what to do and how to supply the milk your baby needs.

Be sure to establish a proper latch. 90% of breastfeeding issues can be attributed to an improper latch. The good news is it can easily be adjusted. Position yourself comfortably and bring the baby to you. Align the baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip in a straight line. The baby’s mouth and nose should face your breast. You do not want the baby turning his or her head towards you, as this will cause the baby to slip off and cause improper positioning for nursing. Encourage the baby to open wide. Baby’s tongue should be down, and once latched on, the lips should be flanged, forming a collar around the nipple.

Nurse on demand and allow the baby to nurse as long as he or she wants to. This can take anywhere from 10-45 minutes at a time. Babies should nurse 10-12 times a day in order to establish and maintain your milk supply Having the baby sleep in the same room with you will help you achieve this goal. When moms and babies sleep close together, they establish the same sleep rhythms. This means that mom and dad get better sleep, babies get their needs met sooner, and the nursing relationship is stronger.

Babies show many signs that they are hungry before they cry: the rooting reflex, the hand sucking, the little noises made. Then, if their needs are not met, that is when they cry. Trying to latch a crying baby onto the breast can be overwhelming and tiresome for both of you.
 Remember that this can be a learning process for both mom and baby. Relax, get the support you need to ensure success, and don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding support person when you feel you need to. I always tell my moms, if you can make it through the first 6 weeks, you can overcome almost any breastfeeding hurdle.