Novant Health Healthy Headlines

Breastfeeding is one of the most common anxieties of early motherhood. It's also extremely beneficial for both mom and baby. In this episode of Latch On, a Novant Health pediatrician details all the ways breastfeeding benefits babies. And it's a long list.

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Gina DiPietro 0:00
One of the most common anxieties of early motherhood is navigating the everyday difficulties of breastfeeding. Whether you're family planning or expanding your family, our experts are here to help. I'm Gina DiPietro, your host for Latch On: A Novant Health podcast series featuring breastfeeding content for women at all stages of their journey in motherhood. Novant Health is a Baby Friendly USA hospital where we consider breastfeeding to be the norm. Learn all about the benefits of breastfeeding both for mom and baby, skin-to-skin contact, how to pick up on hunger cues and navigate your postpartum experience, plus other expert advice. Stay tuned.

Gina DiPietro 0:43
Today I'm joined by Dr. Annie Condon, a pediatrician at Novant Health Pediatrics in Denver, North Carolina. Andd Dr. Condon, we've spoken about the benefits of mom to breastfeeding in a previous episode. I'm curious in this episode to delve into a little bit more of what babies get out of breastfeeding.

Dr. Annie Condon 1:01
Absolutely. Thanks, Gina. Over the last several decades, there is unequivocal evidence that breastfeeding protects against a variety of diseases for newborns, infants and children who have been breastfed. Decreased incidence of ear infections, diarrhea, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, something called necrotizing enterocolitis, which is a terrible disease of NICU babies, atopic dermatitis, which is also known as eczema, asthma, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, both type one and type two, leukemia, childhood obesity. Breastfed babies have improved dental health, increased neurodevelopmental outcomes, and a lot of studies have actually shown that breastfed babies have higher IQ than those who are fed formula. So it really is important that moms understand that breast is best and that when choosing to breastfeed or formula feed. If you do choose to breastfeed, you are creating a positive healthy environment for your infant, and it's the best gift you can ever give them.

Gina DiPietro 2:17
That is so many benefits. I'm curious, is it because breast milk is so nutritionally complete?

Dr. Annie Condon 2:24
Yes, absolutely. So when you look at the evidence as far as what's in breast milk, versus what's in Formula, or regular cow's milk products, or even other plant based products. When the baby is first born, moms make something called colostrum. And colostrum is sort of like a super protein power shake for newborns. It has the right ratio of fat and protein and carbohydrates. It has antibodies from the mom, it has immunoglobulins, it has vitamins, it has minerals. And as the baby grows, the mom's breast milk is uniquely able to change depending on the child's age, their nutritional needs, what kind of vitamins and minerals they need. So newborn breast milk is actually quite different than breast milk for six month olds, and is quite different than breast milk for eight month olds and nine month olds. So mom's milk is able to change depending on what the child's nutritional needs are. And that's amazing and formula and cow's milk just can't replicate that. Also, it's interesting because cow's milk protein has more of something called casein in it. So cow's milk tends to have casein protein. Women's milk has more whey protein, and whey protein has been shown in studies to be easier to digest. So infants who get casein protein, which is what's in cow's formula, they tend to have more gas, more upset tummy, more colic. So it really is important to understand the sort of nutritional differences between human milk and cow's milk.

Gina DiPietro 4:14
That's fascinating. The human body is incredible. How old is too old to breastfeed? Is there a cut off? I'm sure that there are many answers to this question.

Dr. Annie Condon 4:28
That's a great question actually. And I get asked that question all the time. And really, it kind of depends on the mother, the family, the situation. As far as a pediatrician, we recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed, which means no other fruits, vegetables, cereals, etc. exclusive breastfeeding from zero to six months. After that, they can also have cereals and other things introduced as well, table foods, etc. The goal of the CDC is to recommend exclusive breastfeeding up to the age of twelve months. Most American women, unfortunately, don't get to that goal, whether it be because they have to return to work, or because of fatigue or maternal illnesses or other reasons, but six months exclusive breastfeeding twelve months, breastfeeding is what's recommended. The World Health Organization, however, recommends that moms continue to breastfeed their infants, as long as it's mutually beneficial for both mom and baby up to the age of two. And when you look at the science and the evidence on that, like why would I breastfeed my walking toddler? You still continue to have health benefits for mom as far as reducing menstrual flow, and improved weight loss. But with infants to children, again, there is that ability of the mother's milk to change as far as the protein to fat to carbohydrate ratio. And that is something that we just cannot replicate in whole cow's milk or toddler formula. So really is kind of up to the mom, when she chooses to stop breastfeeding. I have some moms that do what it's called tandem nursing, where they have one child, that child is breastfeeding, then they have an infant. And they continue to both breastfeed the infant, as well as the toddler. I have some other physicians who asked me Well, isn't that dangerous? Aren't you taking away from the newborn? And for most healthy moms who eat right and drink lots of water and other things and get a lot of rest, they're actually able to tandem nurse quite well. And if you think that a toddler really doesn't need that much milk as far as nutrition, they're not stealing from their younger sibling, they're just nursing a little bit to get some milk throughout the day and to get that nutrition in that bonding with mom. So really is up to the parent whether or not she chooses to continue nursing past that year and beyond.

Gina DiPietro 7:08
Are there any myths about breastfed babies that we should address?

Dr. Annie Condon 7:13
These are not myths, these are actually things that have been shown. So I guess you could say that the myth is that breastfeeding is stressful, and it's harder for mom, and it makes them more tired. And all those things happen for every mom of every newborn. But there's actually evidence based medicine that there are physical, mental and emotional things that help both mom and baby as far as breastfeeding. So when moms breastfeed, they release oxytocin and prolactin, which are hormones that can actually help to calm the infant. infants that are breastfed cry less than infants who are formula fed. And that connection provides comfort for infants that only moms can provide. Studies show that all infants need to rely on touch and taste and smell and sound in order to survive and to thrive. Infants that get more stimulation, whether it be in a care homes or hospitals, infants that get more physical human touch and interaction actually thrive and do much better than those who don't get those physical contact and interaction. So when moms are physically bonding with their infant with breastfeeding, the baby is actually calmer, cries less has less colic and sleeps better than those babies who are traditionally formula fed.

Gina DiPietro 8:42
Interesting. Thanks, Dr. Condon.

Gina DiPietro 8:50
Thank you for listening to this episode of Latch On, a breastfeeding podcast series under Novant Health Healthy Headlines. Find lots of other episodes under the Healthy Headlines channel ... everything from flu season to COVID-19, mental health advice and other great resources to keep you and your family healthy. We're on Apple, Google, Spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. I'm Gina DiPietro, your host, and we hope to see you back here real soon.