I know I am not a pediatrician or a family practice doctor, so some may wonder why I am so focused on breastfeeding.   I am a surgeon who deals a ton with the breasts and the effects of breastfeeding.  I have heard rumblings while being a mom-around-town of women who are choosing not to breastfeed their children because they are concerned about the cosmetic effect it will have on their breasts.  I am a fan of breastfeeding.  Please see the other blogs prior to this and the results of a study which just came out.

For the hypereducated Bay Area women reading my blog, here is another pro for breastfeeding:

MUCH lower risk of SIDS.

SIDS is sudden infant death syndrome.  It affects 2,300 babies a year.  The cause is unknown.  From the sids.org site, risk factors include having a baby as a teen, less than one year between pregnancies, tobacco/cocaine/heroin use during pregnancy, and premature birth.  After the baby is born: have the crib in your room, no bedding/pillows, sleep on the back, use a pacifier, avoid respiratory infections, and do not overheat the baby.  The risk is highest between 2-4 months of age.  90% of SIDS occur in babies less than 6 months.

In Pediatrics June 2011 online edition, Hauck and researchers at University of Virgina did metaanalysis of 18 studies looking at breastfeeding and risk of SIDS.  Findings:

  • 73% reduction in risk if exclusively breastfed
  • 60% reduction in risk if breastfed for any time period
  • 45% reduction when other factors known to increase SIDS were factored out, like smoking, socioeconomic status, and sleep position.

 

Why does breastfeeding lead to lower risk?  Thoughts vary.  Hypothesis include:

  • Breastfed babies are more arousable during sleep
  • Fewer issues with diarrhea and respiratory infections, which may predispose to SIDS
  • Possible boost of their immunity from the breastmilk.

So, pediatricians recommend breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and then continue to nurse for the first year, as you introduce solid foods.  So bond with your child, lose weight (anyone for an extra slice of cheesecake?), and protect them from SIDS…. Breastfeeding is sounding pretty good.

This will be the first in a line of blogs about this topic.

Let me start first with an email I received from a patient,  “I just want let you know that I have had no problem breastfeeding.  I am grateful that nothing was damaged during my breast lift surgery.  Nice job to you!!  We had a beautiful girl.  I was worried about breastfeeding but it is going great.  I have a ton of milk supply on both breasts.   I just wanted to let you know. “

All breast surgery affects the breast.  Seems like a simple concept, but we forget it sometimes.  A 20 year old woman who wants a breast reduction may be more focused on getting her breasts smaller and somewhere above her waist, not the bonding and nutrition she may give with breastfeeding 10 years down the road when she decides to have kids. 

So I discuss it. 

Any woman who has not had children and wants to do any surgery of the breast needs to consider the effect surgery will have on the breast and your ability to breastfeed.  Thankfully, for most women, they are able to make milk.  The studies show there may be a decreased amount of milk, but I have had many patients who have had breast augmentation or breast reductions and lifts who have successfully gone on to breastfeed.

If you are a decade away from thinking about kids or you have a lot of issues with your breasts (backpain, droop, asymmetry, etc), then know there are techniques which help maximize your future ability to breastfeed.  If you are on the verge of having kids, wait to do the surgery.   It will totally preserve your ability to breastfeed among other advantages:
Anectode:  I had a friend who was 38, newly married, who wanted a breast augmentation.  I am a straight shooter, so I told her, “You are older.  You can’t wait to have kids.  Have your kids.  You’ll need to have them in the next year or two.  Your breasts will get bigger with pregnancy.  Your breasts will get bigger while breastfeeding.  When you know you are done, then do the surgery.  Pregnancy and breastfeeding changes the breasts a lot- shape, volume, symmetry.”  She did not listen, and went to someone else for surgery.  She has now had two surgeries within 3 years.  Had she waited until done with kids, she might have had just one surgery, and the results could have been better. 
 
I am a huge fan of breastfeeding.  I am not saying to do surgery or not do surgery.  I am not dictating the timing of your surgery.  This is all about educating you to make the right choices for you.

Yes, yes.  I am a true believer in the benefits of breast feeding. 

I do not go into this starry eyed.  I know there is a cosmetic hit we breast feeding moms take (it is a lot of what I fix doing my mommy makeover work.)  But if you aren’t going to do it for your child’s health (less infections, etc), or for your health (lowers the rate of diabetes and heart risk), then do it for your country.

Medical costs are soaring.  The government is becoming increasingly involved in medicine.  I saw a recent study published in the news about how breastfeeding for six months could save 13 billion dollars. (!!)  You mean I can make a dent in America’s staggering spending by breastfeeding my baby?

Yes.

This is not new news.  In March 2001, a study of “The Economic Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Review and Analysis” was published for the USDA  (Food Assistance and Nutrition Report (FANRR13):

“A minimum of $3.6 billion would be saved if breastfeeding were increased from current levels (64 percent in-hospital, 29 percent at 6 months) to those recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General (75 and 50 percent). This figure is likely an underestimation of the total savings because it represents cost savings from the treatment of only three childhood illnesses: otitis media, gastroenteritis, and necrotizing enterocolitis. This report reviews breastfeeding trends and previous studies that assessed the economic benefits of breastfeeding”

http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/FANRR13/

The recent numbers are an extension of the original study, which only looked at three major illnesses, and wasn’t corrected for today’s economics. 

So.  Breastfeed- For your baby, for your health, and for your country.