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Thousands of Philippine mothers breastfeed in public to counter stigma

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Monday, August 6th, 2018

Mother nursing infant (Screenshot from Reuters video)


Over 2,200 mothers simultaneously nursed their children in Manila on Sunday (August 5) as part of a campaign to take away the stigma of breastfeeding in public.

Mothers breastfed their infants for over a minute in a campaign called “Hakab Na”, which means “to latch on”.

Melissa Magaling, 32, has been breastfeeding her five children for six years and said the nutritional value of her milk cannot compare to formula.

Liezel Santos, 37, who recently had a child, said breastfeeding is also cost-effective.

A 2011 Family Health survey by the National Statistics Authority said over 92 percent of children in the Philippines between six to 35 months had been breastfed at some point, with 27 percent exclusively breastfed. The survey was conducted across 53,000 households in the country.

World Breastfeeding Week is an annual global initiative running from August 1-7. — Reuters

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Mother’s heart health tied to breastfeeding

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for babies up to 6 months old and says it reduces child mortality and has proven health benefits that extend into adulthood. (REUTERS)

(Reuters Health) – A woman’s risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke later in life may be influenced by how long she breastfed her children, according to a new study from China.

Women who reported having breastfed for any amount of time were about 9 percent less likely than mothers who never breastfed to have signs of coronary heart disease, like a heart attack, in middle age and later and about 8 percent less likely to have a stroke.

“This study suggests that it reduces the mother’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” said study author Zhengming Chen, of the University of Oxford in the UK.

But, Chen told Reuters Health, the study does not prove a direct or causal link between not breastfeeding and poor cardiovascular health.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed their children for the first six months of life, and continue to breastfeed for a year or more while introducing other foods.

Previous studies have linked breastfeeding to reduced risks of metabolic dysfunction, diabetes and high blood pressure among women later in life, Chen and colleagues note in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Some studies have also suggested a link between breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease, they write.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed data on women who were recruited between 2004 and 2008, when they ranged in age from 30 to 79 years old, and were followed for about eight years. The analysis included 289,573 women living in 10 urban and rural areas of China, who provided information about their health and breastfeeding history. Researchers also gathered data about them from disease, death and insurance registries to see if they had heart-related events.

The women’s average age was 51 when they entered the study. Nearly all reported giving birth to at least one child, and the vast majority breastfed at some point.

Over about eight years, the researchers found nearly 50,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, which included 23,983 strokes and 16,671 cases of coronary heart disease.

Women who had breastfed were 12 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease, 9 percent less likely to have coronary heart disease and 8 percent less likely to have a stroke over that time than women who had children but never breastfed.

In addition, the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke appeared to decrease as the amount of time women breastfed increased.

Compared to women who never breastfed, those who reported breastfeeding for six to 12 months were 7 percent less likely to have a heart attack while the risk was 18 percent lower among women who breastfed for more than two years. The results were similar for stroke risk.

The researchers also adjusted the calculations to account for other factors that might influence the results like education, income, smoking status, blood pressure and physical activity.

“That didn’t really change our study findings at all,” Chen said.

The new study can’t explain the link between breastfeeding and heart health, but the researchers write that one possibility is breastfeeding helps women’s bodies lose weight gained with pregnancy and “resets” their metabolism to improve the way their body uses insulin and processes fats in the blood, for example. These kinds of post-pregnancy changes may help set breastfeeding mothers on a path to better long-term health.

Still, women should not breastfeed to lower their cardiovascular risk, cautioned Dr. Steve Nissen, who is chair of the Robert and Suzanne Tomsich Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

“Obviously people who breastfeed are different than people who don’t breastfeed,” said Nissen, who wasn’t involved with the new study.

“A 10 percent difference is so small that almost any unmeasured factor here could explain it,” he told Reuters Health.

Nissen added that breastfeeding is favorable for infants. “We just don’t know if it’s favorable for the mother,” he said. — By Andrew M. Seaman

SOURCE: bit.ly/2sTYcQ9 Journal of the American Heart Association, online June 21, 2017.

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Gut bacteria may help explain benefits of breastfeeding

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Thursday, May 11th, 2017

FILE PHOTO: Mothers breastfeed their babies while attending a rally to raise public awareness and support for breastfeeding near the steps of New York City Hall in Manhattan, August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

(Reuters Health) – Breastfeeding has long been linked to a variety of health benefits in babies, and a new study suggests that bacteria transferred from mothers to their nursing infants might be at least partly responsible.

Researchers focused on what’s known as the microbiome, or all of the bacteria, viruses and fungi that live in and on the body. They tested 107 mother-baby pairs for organisms on women’s breasts and in their milk, and they also examined babies’ stool as a way of determining what types of organisms were in the infant gut microbiome.

While they found distinct types of bacteria in milk, breast tissue and infant stool, researchers also found infants’ gut microbial communities matched the bacteria in their mothers’ milk and on their mothers’ skin much more than it resembled samples from other women in the study.

That suggests each mother’s milk was a major contributor to her own infant’s gut microbiome.

“We were able to show that there are bacteria in milk and that these bacteria could be traced to bacteria in infant stools,” said senior study author Dr. Grace Aldrovandi, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Mattel Children’s Hospital at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“This supports the hypothesis that milk microbes are a mechanism by which breastfeeding provides benefit,” Aldrovandi said by email.

Pediatricians recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed infants until at least 6 months of age because it is tied to reduced risk for babies of ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, allergies, childhood obesity and diabetes.

Mothers may benefit too, with longer periods of breastfeeding linked to lower risks of depression, bone deterioration and certain cancers.

Based on lab tests of bacteria found in milk, on skin and in stool in the current study, researchers estimated that babies who got at least 75 percent of their nutrition from breast milk during the first month of life received about 28 percent of their gut bacteria from their mother’s milk. These babies also got about 10 percent of their gut bacteria from mothers’ skin and 62 percent from sources researchers didn’t determine.

The more babies nursed, the more their gut bacterial community changed to resemble what was found in their mother’s milk.

And in babies who got more of their nutrition exclusively from breastfeeding, microbial communities were slightly more diverse overall and different microbes predominated compared to babies who breastfed less.

One limitation of the study is that researchers didn’t assess the origins of the breast milk bacteria or other bacterial communities from the mother that might have contributed to the infant gut microbiome, the authors note. Nor did they assess any effects on the babies’ health based on differences in their microbiomes.

Still, the results build on previous research suggesting that the infant gut microbiome is different for breast-fed and formula-fed babies, said Dr. Alexander Khoruts, a researcher at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis who wasn’t involved in the study.

“We’ve always assumed that most of these microbes come from the mother,” Khoruts said by email. “They found that breastfeeding is the major source of microbial transfer during the early months of life, and I think the study provides supportive evidence for the current recommendations of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding to 12 months.”

Many factors can influence the infant gut microbiome, including breastfeeding, whether babies arrived by vaginal or surgical delivery and antibiotic use, noted Jose Clemente, a researcher in the genetics and genomic sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.

“The beneficial effects of breastfeeding are well known, and this study provides further evidence by demonstrating that probiotic bacteria found in breast milk can be transferred to the infant,” Clemente, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email. “Every little bit helps, so even some amount of breast milk can be a source of beneficial bacteria for babies.” — By Lisa Rapaport

SOURCE: bit.ly/2qYKdnF JAMA Pediatrics, published online May 8, 2017.

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How touch can shape babies’ brain development

by UNTV News   |   Posted on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

FILE PHOTO: A nurse assists a mother as she attempts to breast feed her newborn baby at the government-run Fabella hospital in Manila March 24, 2010. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco/Files

(Reuters Health) – For newborns, skin-to-skin contact with parents and caregivers may help shape how their brains respond to touch, a sense necessary for social and emotional connections, a new study suggests.

Plenty of previous research has linked skin-to-skin touch with developmental benefits for both premature and full-term babies, ranging from improved growth and sleep to better motor development.

Research has also tied breastfeeding and other forms of supportive touch to less discomfort during from needle sticks and other painful medical procedures.

In the current study, researchers tested how 125 premature and full-term infants responded to gentle touch. Overall, the preemies were more likely than the full-term babies to have a reduced response to this contact, the study found.

But preemies who had more gentle contact with parents and caregivers had a stronger response to touch than the preterm infants who didn’t get this type of support. The preterm babies who had more exposure to painful medical procedures also had a reduced response to touch.

“Our findings add to our understanding that more exposure to these types of supportive touch can actually impact how the brain processes touch, a sense necessary for learning and social-emotional connections,” said lead study author Dr. Nathalie Maitre of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

“What is surprising is that painful procedures which are known to impact processing of pain in the brain also impact processing of touch, in a negative way,” Maitre said by email.

Pregnancy normally lasts about 40 weeks, and babies born after 37 weeks are considered full term. In the weeks immediately after birth, premature babies often have difficulty breathing and digesting food. They can also encounter longer-term challenges such as impaired vision, hearing, and cognitive skills as well as social and behavioral problems.

The preemies in the study were born between 24 and 36 weeks gestation, while the full-term infants arrived between 38 and 42 weeks. They all participated in the touch experiment before they were discharged from the hospital where they were born.

Newborn development, especially in the first few months, is heavily shaped by touch and sound, as the visual system is still very immature, Maitre said. Touch is a way for infants to learn about their surroundings and an early way to communicate with their parents.

To evaluate how newborns respond to touch, researchers exposed all of the infants in the study to a light puff of air and a “fake” puff of air and measured their brain responses.

Researchers chose a puff of air because it does not generate enough pressure to activate any pain receptors, Maitre said. If the infant brain can respond to this touch, babies can also learn how to tell the difference between different textures, for example the difference between their mother’s skin and a hard object, or even their father’s stubbly cheek and their sister’s soft one.

Preemies who were in the neonatal intensive care unit and spent more time in gentle contact with parents and caregivers had a stronger response to touch in the experiment than the preterm infants who didn’t get this gentle contact, researchers report in Current Biology.

However, the more painful medical procedures those premature infants had to endure, the less their brain responded to gentle touch later. That was true despite the fact that the babies were given pain medications and sugar to make those procedures easier to endure.

One limitation of the study is that researchers couldn’t control for opiate use, because all infants undergoing painful procedures received some type of analgesia, the authors note. Researchers also lacked data on the intensity of pain infants might have experienced during different treatments or tests.

Still, promoting gentle touch for all newborns – and especially preemies – may help develop building blocks needed for cognition, behavior and communication, the authors conclude.

SOURCE: bit.ly/2nAc6kv Current Biology, online March 16, 2017.

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