- Breastfeeding is the natural process of feeding human milk directly from the breast.
- Breast milk is the preferred nutritional source and the normal and physiologic way to feed all newborns and infants.
- Breast milk contains over 200 active components which provide nutrition, fight pathogens, promote healthy gut microbiome, and aid in maturity of immune system.
- Maternal benefits (as compared with mothers who do not breastfeed) include:
- Rapid involution/decreased postpartum bleeding
- Decreased risk of postpartum depression and increased bonding
- Postpartum weight loss
- Decreased risk of breast cancer and association of decreased risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal ovarian cancer (2), decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease
- Decreased risk of prematurity
- Increased bone density
- Infant benefits include the following (1):
- Ideal food: easily digestible, nutrients well absorbed, less constipation
- Lower rates of virtually all infections via maternal antibody protection
- Fewer respiratory and GI infections
- Decreased risk of ear infections, bacterial meningitis, pneumonia, and sepsis
- Decreased incidence of otitis media and necrotizing enterocolitis
- Decreased incidence of obesity and type 1 and 2 diabetes
- Decreased incidence of allergies, clinical asthma, and atopic dermatitis in childhood
- Decreased risk of developing celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease
- Decreased risk of childhood leukemia
- Decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Enhanced neurodevelopmental performance including intelligence (3)
- Increased attachment between mother and baby
- According to CDC Breastfeeding Scorecard, U.S. breastfeeding rates are on the rise in 2018: any breastfeeding: 83.2%. (however, differs among different sociodemographic and culture) (4)
- Breastfeeding at 6 months: 57.6%
- Breastfeeding at 12 months: 35.9%
- Exclusive breastfeeding at 3 months: 46.9%
- Exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months: 24.9%
Etiology and Pathophysiology
- The mechanism of milk production is based on several hormones: Prolactin triggers milk production and oxytocin releases milk based on supply and demand. Endocrine control system triggers making of colostrum at 5 months’ gestation.
- Alveoli make milk in response to hormone prolactin. Sucking stimulates secretion of prolactin, which triggers milk production.
- Stimulation of areola causes secretion of oxytocin. Oxytocin is responsible for let-down reflex when myoepithelial cells contract and milk is ejected into milk ducts.
- Endocrine/metabolic: Cystic fibrosis, diabetes, galactosemia, phenylketonuria, and thyroid dysfunction may cause delayed lactation or decreased milk.
Most vaccinations can be given to breastfeeding mothers, including COVID-19 immunization. The CDC recommends that the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis, hepatitis B, inactivated influenza virus (as opposed to live attenuated), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), and inactivated polio and varicella vaccines can be given. The CDC recommends avoiding the yellow fever or smallpox vaccine in breastfeeding mothers (5).
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