When Breast Isn't Best: 6 Tips for Making Exclusively Pumping Work January 25, 2015 15:51
Many new mothers dream of breastfeeding their babies, but sometimes despite all of our good intentions and hard work, it doesn't work out. Whether it is due to illness, latch issues, or other problems, sometimes breastfeeding just isn't a possibility. In these cases, many women turn to formula, and while this is a perfectly acceptable alternative, others choose to exclusively pump. Exclusively pumping is a major commitment and is difficult to accomplish, but by following some important tips, you can make it work for you and your baby.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
Choosing to exclusively pump is not a decision that most women take lightly, and many mothers only decide to take this path after repeated attempts at breastfeeding have failed. Although this is not the path that you would have liked for you and your baby, it is important to remember that you are not a failure. By exclusively pumping, you are ensuring that your baby is still getting the best possible nutrition even though you are not able to breastfeed. Focus your energy on your baby and developing a strong bond, and don't allow guilt to affect how you feel about the process.
Get a Great Pump
The breast pump that you choose can make or break your ability to be successful at exclusively pumping. Research double-action electric breast pumps online to find the best one for you, and choose your accessories wisely. Since your pump will likely go everywhere with you, you'll want to find one that comes with a convenient carrying case and a small cooler, if possible.
Double (or Triple) Up on Pump Accessories
One of the major drawbacks of exclusively pumping is the amount of time that you will spend washing and sterilizing your pumping supplies. In order to make this process less labor intensive, consider an investment in duplicate pump parts. Contact your pump manufacturer or look online for extra tubing connectors, silicone diaphragms, valves, and horns. By having extra supplies, you won't have to wash your parts after every pumping session.
Freeze Excess Milk
Exclusive pumpers know that you'll have good days and bad days in terms of your milk supply. Therefore, it is important to take advantage of your good days and to freeze any excess milk that you may retrieve. Invest in freezer bags and a permanent marker so that you can properly label them, and clear out some room in your freezer. By stocking up on extra milk, you will have backup available in the event that a drop in supply doesn't leave you with enough to feed your baby.
Find a Support System
While breast and formula feeding mothers usually have a support system of people who understand their feeding decision, exclusive pumpers are often left out. Therefore, it is important to find someone that you can talk to about your experiences and struggles with exclusively pumping. Ideally, your partner and family will be supportive of your decision, but if speaking to them isn't an option, go online to search out birth boards and support groups targeting women who exclusively pump. These mothers know exactly what you are going through and can provide you with tips on how to make your life as an exclusive pumper easier.
Take Pumping One Day at a Time
Exclusively pumping is hard work, and at the beginning, you may question your ability to maintain a consistent and rigorous pumping schedule. You may have a goal in your mind to try to pump for three months, six months, or even a year, and the thought of keeping up your routine for that length of time may seem overwhelming. In this situation, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to take pumping one day at a time. Focus on the present day and completing all of your pumping sessions. By putting the future and your ability to continue pumping out of your mind, you will feel less stress about your situation.
As an exclusive pumper, it is important to remind yourself about the sacrifice that you are making for your baby. While your dreams of breastfeeding may not have worked out, you are continuing to sacrifice your body and time in order to ensure that your child is getting the best nutrition possible. By focusing on your baby and using helpful techniques, you can make exclusively pumping a positive experience for your family.
Can a birth doula improve breastfeeding success? March 29, 2014 15:26
Written By Michelle Roth, BA, LCCE, IBCLC
Continuous labor support during childbirth has many advantages, including a decreased risk of interventions (including cesarean birth), less use of pain medication, and more positive birth memories (Hodnett 2013). But did you know a doula may also increase breastfeeding success?
From the Greek word for slave, doula has evolved to mean a woman who supports another woman during the birth process. During childbirth, she supports the laboring woman and her partner physically - helping mom change positions, providing massage or counterpressure, and giving the birth partner suggestions on how to help – as well as emotionally and intellectually. She is typically with the couple from the start of labor to the time of birth. Because of her presence and her trusted position with the new parents, she may be the ideal member of the birth team to help a mom initiate breastfeeding.
In an early study of the effect of doula care on breastfeeding success, researchers found that women in the intervention group (doula care) were more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at one month after the birth (Langer et al, 1998). These women were also less likely to wean or supplement for perceived low milk supply. In closing, the researchers write, “These results provide grounds to consider that psychosocial support during labour and the immediate postpartum period should be part of comprehensive strategies to promote breastfeeding “ (1062).
In another study, Nommsen-Rivers and colleagues (2009) assessed the timing of the onset of lactation and the proportion of breastfeeding moms at 6 weeks postpartum for two groups – those with and without doula care for the birth. Compared to the standard care group, women in the doula care group were more likely to have their milk come in by day 3, were less likely to use a pacifier in hospital, were less likely to report concerns about milk supply, and were more likely to be breastfeeding at 6 weeks. After looking at relationships between confounding factors, the authors conclude, “Among mothers with a prenatal stressor, doula care was particularly effective in increasing the odds of continued breastfeeding” (172).
When studying the effectiveness of a hospital-based doula program, Mottl-Santiago and colleagues found that women with doula care were more likely to express an intention to breastfeeding, and were significantly more likely to breastfeed within the first hour after birth. The authors caution, however, that their results may not be a direct effect of a doula at the birth, since the doulas also provided prenatal breastfeeding education to the expectant mothers.
A recent study showed even more promising results. Of the women who had doula care during birth, nearly all initiated breastfeeding (97.9% compared to 80.8% in the general low-income population studied). When looking at a subgroup of women who are less likely to initiate breastfeeding, the researchers found 92.7% of African American women with doula support initiated breastfeeding, significantly higher than in the general population studied (Kozhimannil 2013). The authors suggest that “access to culturally appropriate doula care may facilitate higher rates of breastfeeding initiation,” with the key being suitable matching of doulas to the client population.
What more evidence do we need? Having doula support for your labor and birth may increase the chances of your breastfeeding. Choose a doula who shares your same values and birth philosophy so you feel comfortable and confident in her care. Ask friends, family, your care provider, or your childbirth educator for referrals or check the DONA International website for a doula in your community. Be sure to interview the doula you choose – even asking about her background in breastfeeding education and support. Let her know you plan to nurse your baby, and ask if she will help you get started. Her support may be essential.
Hodnett ED, Gates S, Hofmeyr GJ, Sakala C. (2013). Continuous support for women during childbirth. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 7.
Kozhimannil KB, Attanasio LB, Hardeman RR, O'Brien M. (2013). Doula care supports near-universal breastfeeding initiation among diverse, low-income women. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health. E-pub ahead of print 9 JUL 2013.
Langer A, Campero L, Garcia C, Reynoso S. (1998). Effects of psychosocial support during labour and childbirth on breastfeeding, medical interventions, and mothers’ wellbeing in a Mexican public hospital: a randomised clinical trial. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (105), 1056-1063.
Mottl-Santiago J, Walker C, Ewan J, Vragovic O, Winder S, Stubblefield P. (2008). A hospital-based doula program and childbirth outcomes in an urban, multicultural setting. Matern Child Health J 12, 372–377.
Nommsen-Rivers LA, Mastergeorge AM, Hansen RL, Cullum AS, Dewey KG. (2009). Doula care, early breastfeeding outcomes, and breastfeeding status at 6 weeks postpartum among low-income primiparae. JOGNN 38, 157-173.
Prenatal Yoga: How to Get Started April 28, 2013 00:00
It might be difficult to find the time and energy to exercise while pregnant, but the benefits of doing so are numerous. Properly done, it can actually increase the amount of energy you have. It can reduce back pain, constipation, and bloating, and could even make labor a lot easier.
Prenatal yoga is a great way to stay in shape while you are expecting. Prenatal yoga will make you and your baby stronger. It does not matter whether you’re a first-timer or an experienced yogi – prenatal yoga is available to everyone, regardless of experience. There are a few considerations to be made depending on what trimester you’re in, but there are a few things that apply no matter what.
Many women around the world have only thought about trying yoga. Now that they’re expecting mothers, it’s the perfect time to try. It is important to only seek classes that are specifically for expecting mothers. Yoga looks relaxing, but it is actually an incredibly stressful exercise, one that can cause trouble if not approached appropriately.
Your regular class may still do if your instructor knows how to teach prenatal yoga. In either event, it is best to inform him or her of your condition as soon as you know so the proper adjustments can be made.
Experienced and expecting practitioners need not stop just because they’re now carrying a child. Some positions will be uncomfortable if not downright dangerous as your pregnancy progresses, so feel free to back out of more intense sessions. Do not feel obligated to do more than you feel your body and baby can take. If necessary, temporarily switch out of your current class to go to a prenatal yoga class so you can stay away from questionable poses.
Dedicated Home Yogis
Home practitioners may either continue practicing at home or sign-up with an experienced prenatal yoga class to make sure that you’re doing it right. If you’re confident in your skills, simply add “Prenatal Sun Salutations” to your routine. “Prenatal Sun Salutations” start in Tadasana, with your feet set as wide as the mat. While inhaling, bring your arms up through the center, up towards the ceiling until you are into the Urdva Hastasana position.
Other positions great for Prenatal Yoga include:
- Cat-Cow Stretch: Being on all fours helps get the baby in position. To make it even more effective, you can have the relevant movements start in the pelvis.
- Utthita Trikonasana: This is an excellent pose that opens up the hamstrings, hips, and chest.
- Parighasana: Your stomach or middle can get exceptionally low on space as the pregnancy progresses, making side stretches extremely satisfying to perform.
- Pelvic Tilts: Lower back pain is common in most pregnancies. Stretching it out will offer some relief.
There are more positions. It is best to consult with an experienced prenatal yoga instructor to learn more.
Yoga after the Pregnancy
The wonderful day has come and past, but that’s no reason to stop practicing yoga. Yoga has a number of physical and mental benefits that new mothers may want to experience. Doctors, however, strongly recommend waiting for a month and a half after delivery before practicing yoga again if you gave birth vaginally. The recovery period may be significantly longer if you had a cesarean operation. Regardless of which method was used, you will have the opportunity to practice yoga again.
Protein: Essential Building Blocks for You and Your Baby April 20, 2013 00:00
Most people don’t know as much about protein as they think they do. When you were in school, or perhaps in your own kitchen as a child, you learned that protein was one of the rainbow colored sections that comprised the all-powerful Food Pyramid. The protein section of the poster was filled with pictures of beans and chicken legs, nuts and eggs. Your mother complained that the only protein she could get down you was peanut butter. Now, as an adult and a mother, you know that protein is important to growing bodies. But what, exactly, is t protein-rich food comprised of and why is it necessary for a healthy body and mind?
Proteins are the building blocks of life.
Simply stated, proteins are compounds formed from various combinations of amino acids, of which there are twenty, arranged in countless combinations.
Every single chemical reaction and every body function relies on the presence of amino acids. So you can see that proteins really are a requirement for a healthy body. They build cells, regulate fluids, rebuild tissues, and are vital to hormone, antibody, and enzyme production. In the absence of carbohydrates and fat, proteins also supply the body with energy.
Eight of those twenty amino acids that form the proteins are not produced or stored inside the body, so they absolutely must be consumed throughout the day. They are phenylalanine, tryptophan, valine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, and threonine. These eight are called essential amino acids, as in, “It’s essential that you eat them!”
Essential amino acids are found in a variety of protein sources like fresh water fish, eggs, nuts, and some nut oils. But it’s also important that you eat a balance of various types of proteins, essential and non-essential, as your body often cannot produce enough of the non-essential amino acids to meet your needs. Let’s see if we can make it easy for you to figure out just how much and what types of proteins to include in your diet.
Healthy Protein Consumption
You may have heard proteins referred to as complete or incomplete, high-quality or lower-quality. These terms simply refer to whether or not a protein source provides you with all of your essential amino acids in the necessary proportions. Sources such as meat, dairy, poultry, eggs/egg whites, and fish provide you with the correct balance of all of your amino acids. However, you can still get all of your amino acids by combining several incomplete proteins such as nuts and oats, or beans and brown rice.
Eating large amounts of red meat and dairy can actually add too much fat to your diet, without the necessary fiber for a healthy digestive system. Instead, you should balance your protein intake by combining lean meats and fish, low-fat dairy and eggs, with combinations of nuts, legumes, and whole grains.
How much is enough?
The Food and Drug Association recommends a daily protein intake of about 50 grams, based on a 2,000 calorie diet. This might look like two poached eggs for breakfast, a yogurt cup for a snack with granola, a cup of beans and brown rice as part of your lunch, a pork chop with dinner, and a handful of almonds and seeds somewhere in between.
Contrary to what you may think, the necessary intake of protein does not changed based on physical activity. Instead, protein needs are based on your weight, and should be right around .8 – 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.
Protein for Breastfeeding and Pregnancy
However, if you are a nursing or pregnant mother, you will need to increase your protein intake by about thirty additional grams per day. While still in the womb, this protein is crucial to the healthy development of his or her body and brain. Also, the amino acids that you take in will help regulate your sleep and your emotions, two very important things for your own personal well-being.
Infants use a third of their dietary protein to build new muscles and connective tissues. Since their primary, and best, source of nutrition is their mother’s breastmilk, you will need to make sure yours has all the protein necessary for your baby’s healthy body.
You can add extra protein into your diet easily by snacking on unsalted nuts, egg whites, lean meat slices and hard cheeses, or by sprinkling your cereals and yogurt with flax seeds. Skip the chips and opt for edamame or raw trail mix, and add a slice of turkey bacon to your morning omelet. Carry some prepackaged protein bars in your purse to avoid grabbing a bagel when you’re out running errands.
With just a few simple changes, you’ll be able to add the right kinds of protein to your diet… for your body and your baby’s.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administrationhttp://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/ucm064928.htm
- Nutrition and Well-being A to Z
- The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/protein/
- USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
How Medications Affect Breastmilk January 20, 2013 21:26
At the pharmacy, I get a lot of questions about medications while breastfeeding. While it is always safest to avoid medications while breastfeeding, sometimes mothers are left without a choice if their condition puts their own health at risk. Although many medications are safe to use when you're breastfeeding, most drugs will get into your milk to some degree and may even affect your milk supply. To be safe, check with your child's doctor before taking any kind of medication, even over-the-counter drugs. The mechanism of how drugs enter breast milk is described below in addition to some general guidelines that I follow when counseling my patients.
Transfer of drugs into breast milk is influenced by protein binding, lipid solubility and ionization
This sounds pretty scientific but basically this means that nearly all drugs transfer into breast milk to some extent.
Notable exceptions are heparin and insulin which are too large to cross biological membranes. The infant almost invariably receives no benefit from this form of exposure and is considered to be an 'innocent bystander'.
Drug transfer from maternal plasma to milk is, with rare exceptions, by passive diffusion across biological membranes. Transfer is greatest in the presence of low maternal plasma protein binding and high lipid solubility.
In addition, milk is slightly more acidic than plasma (pH of milk is approximately 7.2 and plasma is 7.4) allowing weakly basic drugs to transfer more readily into breast milk and become trapped secondary to ionization.
What you should know is that milk composition varies within and between feeds and this may also affect transfer of drugs into breast milk. For example, milk at the end of a feed (hindmilk) contains considerably more fat than foremilk and may concentrate fat-soluble drugs.
As a general rule, maternal use of topical preparations such as creams, nasal sprays or inhalers would be expected to carry less risk to a breastfed infant than systemically administered drugs.
This is due to lower maternal concentrations and therefore lower transfer into breast milk.
However, the risk to the infant must be considered in relation to the toxicity of the drug used, the dosage regimen and the area of application. For example, use of corticosteroids nasal sprays or inhalers in standard doses would be considered compatible with breastfeeding.
Infants have lower drug clearance (elimination) than adults
Drug clearance in the infant is a particularly important consideration and premature infants have a severely limited ability to clear drugs.
Within a few days of delivery, term infants have kidney filtration rates approximately one-third of adult values after adjusting for difference in body surface area, and premature infants have even more impaired clearance.
Generally, adult kidney filtration rates (adjusted for the difference in surface area) are attained by five to six months of age.
Minimize risk to the breastfed infant by reducing drug exposure
The overall risk of a drug to a breastfed infant depends on the concentration in the infant's blood and the effects of the drug in the infant. If, after assessment of the risks and benefits, the decision is made to breastfeed while the mother is using a drug, the infant should be monitored for adverse effects such as failure to thrive, irritability and sedation.
However, it is difficult to identify adverse reactions occurring in neonates.
Feeding immediately prior to a dose may help to minimize infant exposure as concentrations in milk are likely to be lowest towards the end of a dosing interval. Or,it may be reasonable to reduce infant exposure by alternating breast and bottle-feeding. For drugs that are not considered safe in breastfeeding, breast milk may be expressed and discarded for the treatment duration. Breastfeeding may be resumed after the drug has been eliminated from the maternal blood stream. A period of approximately four half-lives (the time it takes for half of the drug to clear the body) will reduce maternal concentrations to around 10% of steady-state (full) concentrations.
Atkinson HC, Begg EJ, Darlow BA. Drugs in human milk. Clinical pharmacokinetic considerations. Clinical Pharmacokinetics 1988;14:217-40.
Bennett PN and the WHO Working Group, editors. Drugs and human lactation. 2nd edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1997.
Returning to Work or School while Breastfeeding Your Baby - Some tips for Success December 28, 2012 21:23
Congratulations on your decision to provide the best possible nutrition and protection for your baby after returning to work or school! Here are some tips to help you succeed.
Combining breastfeeding with work or school is challenging, but well worth it. The health and immunity benefits your little one gets from your breast milk cannot be matched by formula. And sitting down to cuddle and nurse after a busy day is a wonderful way to de-stress and reconnect with your baby.
Two keys to success are planning and being organized. Below are tips that other mothers have found helpful, as well as information about the federal law to support breastfeeding mothers at work.
What should you do before you deliver?
Before you begin maternity leave:
- Find out how much time you will be able to take off from work or school after you deliver.
- Take as much family leave as you can to have more time with your baby. Research your options for returning to work or school. Can you work/study part-time for a while? Can you telecommute or use distance learning? Is there a more flexible work or school schedule you can try?
- Talk with your supervisor. Will he/she be supportive? You may want to point out the company advantages of having breastfeeding employees:
- » Less time lost from work because breastfed babies tend to stay healthier than their formula fed counterparts.
» Fewer health expenses for the baby and lower overall health carecosts.
» Higher employee satisfaction, morale and productivity and lower staffturnover.
- » Major recruitment incentive for new employees.
» Reputation as a company concerned for the welfare of workingmothers and children.
- When making arrangements for childcare, choose a provider that supports your wishes to provide pumped breast milk to the baby while you are away and allows you to nurse your baby as soon as you return.
- Be aware of the laws regarding employees who are breastfeeding. On March 23, 2010, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a federal law amending Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (29 U.S.C. 207) was passed. This law mandates break times for breastfeeding mothers to express milk.
- Find out where you will be expressing milk for your baby. Does the room have an electrical outlet? Is there a refrigerator nearby? If not, you may want to purchase a pump with rechargeable battery back-up and an insulated cooler with ice packs (blue ice). Is there a sink available to wash breast pump parts between pumping sessions?
- If not, is there a microwave handy to steam clean the parts? If not, you may want to purchase wipes you can use to clean the parts.
What should you do before you return to work or school?
- Learn how to manually express breast milk, even if you plan to use a breast pump.
- Become familiar with your breast pump. Practice setting up your pump and putting the parts together. Try it out. Adjust the settings so that the speed and suction are as close as possible to how your baby nurses.
- About two or three weeks before returning to work or school, begin pumping once each morning about an hour after you have nursed your baby. (Prolactin levels are highest in the morning.) You may not get any milk during the first couple days, but you are sending a message to your body to begin increasing your milk supply.
- Gradually add two or three more pumping sessions between feedings. Once you start to get milk, store it in the freezer for emergencies. Store expressed or pumped milk in small amounts, two to four ounces.
- Introduce the bottle to your baby two or three weeks before you go back to work or school. It may be easier to have someone else offer the bottle, since your baby links you with breastfeeding. Try to use the newborn-sized nipple for as long as you breastfeed, but you may have to experiment to find one your baby likes.
- Consider buying a “hands-free” nursing bra that allows you to use your hands while you are pumping milk.
- It may be helpful to schedule a practice day. Set your alarm for the time you will be getting up when you’re working or attending class. Take your baby to childcare for at least part of the day. Breastfeed and pump at the times you expect to during work or school. At the end of the day, see if your baby drank as much as you pumped.
- The evening before your first day back, pack the diaper bag and your pump bag. (See packing lists below.) Include an extra blouse or sweater that you can leave at work in case of a milk leak that soaks through breast pads.
What should you do when you return to work or school?
- Be prepared. Your first day back at work or school may be very emotional. Try to start on a Wednesday or Thursday. Easing back into the work or academic world by starting with a shortened week will be less stressful.
- Breastfeed your baby when you wake up, then give him/her a “top-off” when you get to childcare.
- Your baby will need at least two to three bottles while you are away, so you will need to pump at least two to three times during the eight or nine hours you are at work or school. (If you have a longer work day or longer commute, you will need to pump more milk.) This is the milk that will be given to your baby the next day at childcare.
- You may have an easier time having a let-down reflex if you look at a picture of your baby or have a piece of clothing handy that smells like your baby. Pack these in your pump bag.
- Clean pump parts that come into contact with you or your milk. Read the instructions that came with your breast pump. Between pumping sessions you may:
- » rinse with cool water, then wash with warm soapy water and leave out to air dry,
- » wipe with a sanitizing wipe sold by pump manufacturers,
- » rinse parts well and store in the fridge or your cooler, and
- » alternate options above throughout the day. For example, rinse and store in fridge after the morning pump session and wash in warm soapy water after the lunchtime pumping session.
- Some women prefer to purchase several extra sets of pump parts so they do not need to clean parts while at work or school and just put everything in the dishwasher at night.
- Breastfeed again as soon as you and your baby are back together. You can discuss your baby’s day with your childcare provider during this time. Let the mothering hormones that are released during breastfeeding help you relax and bond.
1 Bridges CB, Frank DI, Curtin J. Employer attitudes toward breastfeeding in the workplace. J Hum Lact. 1997;13(3):215-219
- Working without Weaning: A Working Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding (2006) by Kirsten Berggren
- Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies-and How You Can Too (2007) by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette
Has many helpful tips for managing the transition back to work
Has information on new legislation that relates to breastfeeding
The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care. If you have persistent medical problems, or if you have further questions, please consult your doctor or member of your health care team.
Living Mindfully Through Breastfeeding November 21, 2012 00:00
As many concepts related to parenting, green living is an ideal that often gets tossed out the window once the baby arrives. Staying sane on only an hour of sleep while taking care of a demanding infant and remembering basics like getting your teeth brushed on a daily basis can be hard enough, much less living mindfully and in an environmentally friendly manner. However, incorporating green living into your daily life as a parent can start with something as simple as how you feed your infant.
One of the most ways a new mother can live mindfully and be green at the same time is to breastfeed her baby. While of course this is not possible for all mothers, nursing can be an incredible way to foster emotional bonding between a mother and child and may offer important health benefits such as increased immunity. Breast milk is also free, which can substantially lower overall costs compared to purchasing baby bottles and formula. According to the website KidSource.com, the yearly cost of baby formula can range between $1275.00 and over $3000.00, compared to the potential cost of a yearly breastpump rental, which costs less than $500.00 a year.
The creation of baby bottles, nipples, and formula containers has an environmental cost as well as a financial one, since natural and energy resources must be used to manufacture and distribute these items. Such objects are also less likely to be recycled and may take up to 400 years to disintegrate once left in a landfill. Moreover, there may be an environmental risk to using bottles and nipples, as plastic baby bottles and some nipples may contain biphenyl-A (BPA), which a chemical commonly used in the production of plastic items. BPA is also found in the metal lining of several types of infant formula cans, including Enfamil and Similac. The U.S. Environmental Working Group (EWG) has shown that exposure to BPA, even in low doses, may result in early puberty, cancer, behavior and brain disorders. According to MomsandPOPsProject.org, infants who are bottle-fed are the highest population group to face high levels of BPA exposure, which can be reduced through the simple act of breastfeeding.
Many parents think that using filtered water to mix their baby formula is a healthier choice than tap water and in many instances that may be true. However, water is also used to manufacture the bottles, formula and nipples used to feed these babies and this water may not be filtered. This increases the potential risk for contamination of cadmium, aluminum, lead, pesticide and other hazardous chemicals. Dangers with the water used to mix baby formula often continue at home as well. The hot water that parents frequently use to make baby formula in order to warm the formula before feeding it to their baby can also dissolve potential contaminants into the water faster than cold water, which only increases the overall risk of the infant’s exposure to potential chemical contamination.
For all the environmental, health and financial reasons to breastfeed your baby, there is no denying that there is an environmental risk in breastmilk as well. Pollutants that the mother is exposed to or ingests through what she eats or drinks can pass into the breastmilk, including heavy metals, pesticides and persistent organic pollutants (POPs). POPs can include a variety of chemicals, including DDT and other bioactive substances that can pose a health risk to humans. While this may make parents despair that nothing is safe for babies, not even human milk, the U.S. National Institutes of Health concludes that there is little evidence that the chemical agents in breastmilk are strongly linked to morbidity in infants and any potential health risk is lower than any potential health benefit to breastfeeding.
Not all mothers can breastfeed and if this is true for you, consult with your pediatrician about the best type of baby formula to use. If you do use baby formula, look for baby bottles, nipples and formula marked “BPA Free” and remember to clean and recycle the items when you are done with them. Moms who can nurse should consider doing so, due in no small part to the emotional, physical and environmental benefits. But don’t forget that nursing comes with a responsibility as well and carries a risk that may be reduced by eating organic foods whenever possible, choosing meat and dairy items marked “Hormone Free” and consuming a healthy diet. Doing so is a good choice for your mind and body, not to mention your baby and the environment.