Friday, December 23, 2011

Breastfeeding children 'cuts risk of obesity and diabetes in later life'

Ho hum! This mystical epidemiological knowledge never stops.

I have no doubt that breast feeding is a generally good thing but saying which of the effects described below is due to breast feeding is impossible. There are strong social class effects on breastfeeding, with lower class mothers less likely to do it. We read, for instance, that "The mother's IQ was more highly predictive of breastfeeding status than were her race, education, age, poverty status, smoking, the home environment, or the child's birth weight or birth order".

So, in theory, ALL of the differences below could simply be a reflection of the fact that lower class people have generally poorer health and that high IQ people have generally better health

Note further that the study had NO data on whether breastfeeding children cuts the risk of obesity and diabetes in later life. That is just their theory. As the article below says, it is what the authors "believe"

Breastfeeding could help to prevent children developing diabetes and becoming obese later in life, scientists believe. New research shows that breastfed babies follow a different growth pattern to those who drink formula milk, which is likely to have future health benefits.

Breast milk lowers levels of the growth hormone IGF-1 and insulin in the blood, which slows the rate of growth even after the child has started on solid foods. Slower weight gain is known to encourage healthier eating patterns. By contrast, formula milk may increase the production of fat cells, which encourages weight gain throughout childhood.

The findings from LIFE – the Faculty of Life Sciences at Copenhagen University in Denmark – also suggest that the longer the period of breastfeeding, the lower a child’s weight at the age of 18 months.

The results come from analysis of a wider study of diet and wellbeing following 330 children at nine, 18 and 36 months. Anja Lykke Madsen, a member of the research team, said: ‘We can see that breastfeeding has a significant, measurable effect on the important growth regulators in the blood, IGF-I and insulin. The more times the child was breastfed, the lower the hormone levels.

‘This suggests that the child has a slightly lower risk of becoming overweight later in childhood.’ Research shows that breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma, eczema, and allergies, and appears to bring general health advantages in later life. 'The longer the children were breastfed, the lower their weight at 18 months. It’s as simple as that'

More here

Meet the extreme breast-feeders

One uses her nanny as a wet-nurse. Another took drugs to fool her body into producing milk. How the 'breast is best' mantra can become an obsession

Sarah Hastings came across a problem familiar to many new mothers when her daughter was six months old. Desperate as she was to persuade her baby Zoe to take a bottle instead of being breast-fed so she could get back to work, the little girl refused to do so.

What might not be so familiar to other mothers was 46-year-old Sarah’s solution — having another woman suckle her child instead.

Her nanny Mary, who was still breast-feeding her own 18-month-old daughter at the time, was only too happy to step into the breach. ‘With this solution it meant I could get back to work with much less worry and guilt,’ says Sarah, a professional singer married to Martin, a 50-year-old school chaplain.

‘People are astonished when I tell them my child-minder also breast-fed Zoe — but why is that considered so very odd? In previous centuries, wet nursing was very common indeed, especially among the upper classes.’

It may sound strange but in what experts are now calling ‘extreme breast-feeding’, many mothers are going to extraordinary lengths to make sure their babies get the best possible start in life.

Take Cass Fisher, from Epsom, Surrey. Having adopted a ten-month-old girl from India — who until then had spent her entire life feeding from a bottle in a foster home — she was determined to breast-feed her new daughter.

So, months before the adoption had even gone through, she used an electric breast pump four times a day to kick-start milk production. She took herbal supplements known to boost lactation and later, a high dose of a drug called domperidone, which is sometimes given to mothers of newborns because it increases the levels of the breast-feeding hormone prolactin and stimulates lactation.

Then, when her daughter finally arrived, she bought a ‘milk supplementer’ to wean the child from bottle to breast. This £20 contraption is essentially a bottle with an attached tube. It can be filled with either formula or expressed milk by the mother who places the tube over her nipple so that when the baby sucks, it receives milk from both the breast and the bottle.

All this required hours of patience and a fierce determination but Cass, who’s in her mid 40s, insists it was worth it. ‘The benefits are so obvious,’ she stresses. ‘I see my daughter becoming more attached to me and feeling more safe and secure and I know that breast-feeding is a big part of that. It’s a lovely, enjoyable thing for us to share that I never thought I would be able to do with an adopted child.’

Though Cass can only be commended for her perseverance, her decision to trick nature to such a degree is clearly controversial. There are concerns in some quarters about the long-term health risks of tampering with hormone levels, particularly as studies show that some breast cancers are fed by hormones.

‘A woman who has not gone through the hormonal changes of pregnancy is forcing the body to do something it is not prepared for,’ warns Dr Marilyn Glenville, who specialises in natural alternatives to hormone treatments. ‘I always think there could be a consequence to doing something against nature and nobody has done this for long enough to monitor the long-term effects on the mother or baby.’

Breast-feeding counsellor Clare Byam-Cook, meanwhile, is concerned that women are putting themselves under intolerable emotional pressure to nurse a baby against all the odds. Though a passionate advocate for breast-feeding, she is deeply troubled that some are prepared to go to what she describes as ‘extraordinary lengths’ to do it.

‘Women are being brain-washed into thinking that breast-feeding is the only way they will bond with their babies and guarantee their perfect health,’ she says. ‘They feel they must go to these extraordinary lengths — even if it is to the detriment of their baby’s happiness and wellbeing. ‘There’s an entire industry today based around creating breast milk which is not naturally present, and putting even more pressure on women.’

Clare has noticed a rise in adoptive mothers who feel compelled to breast-feed. ‘A few years ago two sisters from London asked me to help them breast-feed their babies, which they had each adopted from America,’ she says.

‘I was astonished to find they were older women in their 50s. They had filled themselves up with hormones and artificial supplements to try to stimulate their milk production but their milk supply was still inadequate and their babies looked miserable and underweight. ‘It was awful watching them desperate to breast-feed and seeing their tiny babies crying and pulling away as they were forced to suck on an empty breast — it must have been torture for all of them.

‘Eventually I suggested they gave the babies a bottle of formula milk, which they immediately gulped down and then fell into a contented sleep for the first time in their young lives.’

Lynn Adams was diagnosed with a condition called mammary hypoplasia after her daughter Mailey, now three, was born. It meant she couldn’t produce enough of her own milk to feed her daughter who, after ten days, was so dehydrated she had to be treated in hospital.

Most mothers would have given up but not 34-year-old Lynn, from Chatham, Kent. She spent £90 on a lactation consultant, and was then prescribed domperidone by her GP to boost her milk supply.

She also used a milk supplementer system while nursing to boost the baby’s consumption.

Occupational therapist Lynn used expressed milk with Mailey, her first child, and, while she found it fiddly and rather time consuming, relished the opportunity it gave her.

‘To me, there is so much more to breast-feeding than just the milk,’ she says. ‘You establish such a close bond and there are so many health benefits to the baby.’

While Lynn, who also used the same method after giving birth to her six-month-old son Robin, is delighted with the results, Clare Byam-Cook is not convinced it would work for everyone.

‘I think that many of the artificial devices are tiring and stressful for a new mother and frequently don’t solve the problem,’ she warns. ‘I cannot see how it can be good for you to fill yourself up with artificial hormones to boost a naturally low milk supply. ‘If breast-feeding isn’t working, I’d much rather women bottle-fed their babies and were relaxed and happy.’

The sad fact is, thought, that for many, turning to a bottle goes hand in hand with a crushing sense of guilt.


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