REPORT: New Breastfeeding Research

May 8, 2012

By: Amy O’Malley RN, MSN

Recently, I attended Medela’s 7th International Breastfeeding and Lactation Symposium to learn about new breastfeeding research. The presenters explained new findings about the components and benefits of breast milk, as well as, introduced new information about the way a breastfeeding mother’s body works. These findings were not only educational for the healthcare professionals in attendance, but this information when shared with mothers will  motivate them to continue to breastfeed longer.

Specifically, the presenters focused on three notable areas of research:

  • The effect of a mother’s medications on breast milk
  • The unique properties of breast milk that make it impossible to replicate in formula
  • The presence of stem cells in human milk

Medications and Breast Milk

Thomas Hale, R.Ph., Ph.D., a Professor of Pediatrics and Assistant Dean of Research at Texas Tech University School of Medicine spoke about medications and breast milk, a topic that has always been a concern for breastfeeding mothers. He estimated that only about 33% of available drugs have specific information about how they interact with breast milk. So, Hale and his team began researching the transfer mechanism of drugs into breast milk. This initial research showed that not all medications need to be stopped while breastfeeding, and in some cases, effective alternatives can be taken. This is great news for moms who need to take medications while breastfeeding, specifically those who take anti-depressants.

Unique Properties of Breast Milk

Lars Bode, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics from the University of California explained that complex sugars found in breast milk, called oligosaccharides, can not be replicated in formula. This supports the finding that formula-fed, mainly pre-term babies are six times more likely to have inflammatory bowel disease than breastfed babies.

So moms, keep up the great work. You truly are providing the best nutrition possible.

Stem Cells in Breast Milk

University of Western Australia doctoral candidate Foteini Hassiotou talked about how the stem cells found in breast milk are capable of becoming other body cell types such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells.  This is a potential solution to a long-standing political issue, meaning there could be an ethical way to obtain pluripotent stem cells in a non-invasive way. It’s particularly exciting for nursing moms because these cells could contribute to more health benefits for baby.

Read on for more details on this new breastfeeding research.

What do you think of these findings? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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