Facts and Myth of Most Common Alternative Uses of Breast Milk

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We all know that breast milk is often refer as “liquid gold” but do you know why? It’s not because the color of the milk looks like gold but it is the price of breast milk cost more (400x more) than crude oil per ounce in weight.  Hence the liquid gold term. Crazy isn’t it. Not only breast milk is the superb choice to feed our precious little ones but it has many benefits for both baby and mother as we already know.

Though, there’s always the common advice from breastfeeding and mom’s support group suggesting other uses of breast milk to cure infant common illness (ear infection, pink eye, blocked tear ducts etc). So, let’s examine what actually works based on research studies.

Myth: Breast feeding / Breast Milk can prevent or cure ear infection

Facts: Breast feeding will reduces the risk of getting ear infection. Not completely prevented it.  On the other hand, dropping a few breast milk into the ear of the baby during ear infection doesn’t support by the research. Most ear infection (otitis media) is a middle ear infection, which is behind the ear drums. So, the breast milk doesn’t reach the inflamed area behind the ear drum to be beneficial to treat it. However, if the infection is an outer ear infection (swimmer’s ear), then breast milk will work. Remember one important fact is that most ear infection will clear on its own within 48-72 hours without antibiotic treatment. If your child has recurrent/frequent ear infection, it is best to seek medical advice.

Myth: Breast milk is great for atopic eczema/ diaper rash

Facts: Truth ! Yes, breast milk has been proven in a randomized clinical trial (Kasrae et al 2015 and Farahani et al 2013) treat atopic eczema and diaper rash respectively. Breast milk works just as effective as the 1% hydrocortisone cream. So, you can definitely try dabbing a few drops of breast milk to the affected area.  One side note is that this will only works on infant with mild to moderate atopic eczema (or dermatitis) and bacteria diaper rash. If the diaper rash are caused by yeast, breast milk will make it worse due to the milk sugar content.

Myth: Breast milk can be use to treat conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Facts: Maybe. Mixed review noted in two separate research done in 2012 (studies in British) and 2014 (studies in Iran with neonatal infant). Breastmilk was noted to be effective in inhibiting growth on gonorrhea, which is the most common bacteria that causes pink eye. However, when comparing to antibiotic ointment, breastmilk comes in second. So, if you live in a rural area without quick access to medical care, then breast milk will not be a bad idea and will not hurt your infant.

Myth: Breast milk can help clear block tear ducts

Facts: False claims. There’s a studies published in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics in 2007 indicates that most blocked tear ducts cleared on its own with or without treatment. However, if you do choose to use breast milk vs antibiotic, it is probably safe as well. Just make sure to clean the gunk from the infant eyes and massage the corner of the eye with warm compress.

Myth: Breast milk can help with infant acne and adults too

Facts: Likely ! Studies have shown that breast milk contains lauric acid, which is a component to help combating acne. Put a few drops of fresh breast milk on the baby’s acne area, leave it air dry for about 10 minutes, then clean the face with some water. As breast milk contains lactose (milk sugar), which may cause the face becoming sticky and causing other irritation to occurs.

Myth: Breast milk is great for sore nipple

Facts: Although there’s no research to back this up but it has been the gold standard from breastfeeding organization (Le Leche) across the world to recommend hand express a few drops of breast milk and apply around the areola area to lubricate to prevent drying and cracking of the nipple.

Well, as you can see breast milk really is a powerful resource. Even the latest research has shown positive association between breast milk properties with cancer treatment and C-difficile. More clinical trials are underway !

Hope you all enjoyed this findings as much as I did. As a mom, I’ve tried it all and some works better than the other. Just remember, even though breast milk is great for many uses, it still harbor quite a lot of bacteria in them, most of them are beneficial to the gut of babies. Make sure to practice good hygiene when hand expressing and storage to reduce as much contamination as possible.

 

 

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Pork Ribs with Green Papaya and Peanuts Soup (排骨木瓜花生汤)

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This soup is one of the favorite among breastfeeding mothers’ in Southeast Asia during their confinement month. Green papaya is thought to help with promoting milk supply. There’s some science behind it as it is rich in Vitamin A, high in oxytocin which helps the let down reflex.

Peanuts also viewed as a galactogue in Asia culture. It is rich in plant based protein, rich in fats (both mono and polyunsaturated fats), high in Vitamin B complex (which boost energy level) and it is believed to enhance milk production as well.

Scientifically speaking, I’m not sure how much the foods or herbs help with breastfeeding mothers. But all I can say is this soup is delicious even if you are not breastfeeding. Plus it can be enjoyed by the entire family.

Ingredients

1 medium size green papaya (peeled the skin and cut into large cubes)
1 1/2 cups Spanish peanuts (soaked overnight)
1 pound pork ribs
3 red dates
1-2 slices of ginger
10 cups of water
Dash of salt to taste

Instructions

1. Use a large soup pot, fill water up to half of the pot, add in the ribs while the water is cold and bring up to a boil. (This is an important step to remove the blood from pork and bones)

2. When the content comes to a boil, leave it for 5 minutes and you’ll start seeing the impurities started to float to the top. Remove the pot from heat, rinse the ribs under running water and set aside.

3. Add in 10 cups water in the stock pot and bring to a boil. Add in pork ribs, dates, peanuts and ginger. Use medium heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Nutrition During Breastfeeding

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Nutrition during lactating period is very similar to the needs while you are pregnant with several exceptions of needing lots of fluids for hydration and higher caloric requirement for milk production. It is important to remind yourself not to lose too much weight while you are trying to establish your milk supply during the first 3 months after birth. There’s no special diet to be on while you are breastfeeding. The goal is to eat a balance and variety of foods to get adequate nutrients you and your baby needs.

EAT WIDE VARIETY OF FOODS
As you already know, you will need additional 500-700 calories per day when you are exclusively breastfed. On average you probably require between 2300-2500 calories daily when you’ve decided to breast feed. Eat a variety of foods includes good protein sources, fruits/vegetables, whole grains, dairy and good fats. I felt like I was in famine during the first 6 months of breastfeeding. Snacks frequently on healthy snacks in between meals and get adequate rest to help promote good quality milk supply.

There are some food/herbs that are consider galactogogues (food that help milk production), but is it always necessary? The answer is NO. Your body is amazing in recognizing the supply and demand. You just have to be patient and trust what your body can do. Eating a healthy and balanced diet will provide you the necessary nutrients to continue a healthy lactation journey.  If you suspect you have low milk supply, check with your local lactation consultant before trying out home remedies yourself. The problem could be improper latch on, incorrect fitting of breast shield, or pump defects.

DRINK FLUIDS & MORE FLUIDS
If you imagine yourself producing 32-40 oz of milk daily, that means you needed to replenish the fluid loss in your body in addition to what your basic requirement are. So drink and hydrate yourself with lots of water, fruit infused water, milk, soups and juice (limit to two cups per day due to high sugar content).

BONE HEALTH
Calcium continues to be equally important here during breastfeeding. Calcium requirement remains at 1,000 mg for women ages 19-30 and 1, 300 mg per day for teenage girls during lactation. So, make sure you eat plenty of high calcium foods so that you don’t end up developing osteoporosis later on. Continue your calcium supplement if that’s the best way you can get your calcium intake. Remember, food first then supplement if needed.

STILL NO ALCOHOL & CAFFEINE 
Recommendation has stated moderation consumption of alcohol (12 oz beer, 5 oz wine) and caffeine (2 cups per day) does not cause major harm to the baby. But, it still carries a certain risk factors. So, this will be up to your discretion as to whether you would like to drink or not. If you asked me, I would have said don’t do it. Alcohol and caffeine can pass through breastmilk. Alcohol in breast milk can cause baby to be drowsy and if you were to drink, wait for couple hours after and pump then discard the milk. Feed your baby fresh milk from earlier pumping session if possible. Caffeine in breast milk on the other hand can make your baby restless, fussier than usual and jittery. Most new mom are advised to stop drinking caffeine when their baby exhibit any of the above symptoms.

STOP OBSESSING ABOUT YOUR WEIGHT
I understand as a women, we always wonder: “When will I be able to lose my baby weight?” Gaining maternal fat storage is important because the fat storage is being used up for milk production after birth. Remember that it took you 9 months to gain all those weight, it will take equally as long about 9 months to one year to lose it all gradually as well. Light to moderate exercise 4-6 weeks after delivery is acceptable. If you had a C-section, you’ll have to wait even longer depending on how your wound heals, always check with your OB/GYN. Rapid weight loss of more than 2 pounds per week has been shown to significantly affect the milk supply of a breastfeeding mother.

LIMIT DAIRY, SPICY, GASSY FOODS ? 
You only have to limit dairy, spicy or gassy foods if your baby is experiencing more spit up and gassy than normal. Eating a variety of foods will actually expose your baby to different flavor from your milk, which in turn can help foster better eating behavior when they are ready for solids at around 6 months old.

If your baby’s stool has blood tint to it, he/she maybe allergic to the milk protein in your diet. Consult the baby’s pediatrician and ask for a blood test. You’ll then have to eliminate all dairy products from your diet milk/protein allergies were confirmed.

 

Postpartum Nutrition Care for Mothers

 

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I often give advice to new mother to remember in taking good care of themselves first before they care for their newborn. I know that the maternal instinct is to focus all your energy on your baby, but the truth is mother’s health comes first. Your baby will gets plenty of love from you and everyone else. Whereas, you, will feel neglected at times, and can easily lead to the postpartum blues or worse case scenario– postpartum depression. If you are not physically or emotionally healthy, your baby will be affected physically and emotionally as well. Therefore, ask for help, rest and sleep when your baby is sleeping, and utilize your friends to bring you food. Yes, you’ll hear that over and over again.

So, let’s focus on good nutrition care after your delivery, whether you’ve decided to breastfeed or using formula. Remember that if you choose to breastfeed, your caloric requirement will increase on an average of 500 calories per day and more if you are feeding multiples.

HYDRATION
Fluids, fluids and more fluids. Even though when you are experiencing edema (swelling), it is still important to keep hydrating yourself to pull the fluids back into cells and excrete through urine. It is extremely important to get adequate fluids intake especially when you are breastfeeding.  Always keep a 16 oz glass fluids nearby and drink before, during and after feeding.  This could be water, milk, juice, or soups.

HIGH IRON
This is particularly important with the amount of blood loss occurs during delivery, this apply to both natural or cesarean birth. You need to make sure to replenish your iron stores if not, you’ll tend to become weaker due to anemia. Make sure to keep up with good iron intake during this period. Iron sources can comes from meat products, vegetables, fortified grains and beans.  Although, do try to avoid eating foods that inhibit iron absorption together. This is due to the phytates compound (an antioxidant) in food such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, coffee and tea binds to the iron content and reduces its availability for absorption.  So, it is recommended to continue taking your prenatal vitamins post delivery as well.

GOOD PROTEIN
Protein is crucial for strength and recovery especially if you had a cesarean birth. Even though is very common, it is still consider a major abdominal surgery that brings trauma to your body and organs. Protein is needed to heal wounds, re-build muscle and aid in recovery.  Protein also helps you to reach your higher calorie requirement during breastfeeding period.  How much do you need ? It depends on your weight,  it is recommended about 1.1-1.2 g of protein intake per kilogram of your body weight or 0.5-0.55 g per pound of body weight.  For example, a 145 pounds women would need 73-80 gm protein during breastfeeding period.

REMEMBER CALCIUM
The requirement for calcium remains the same as during pregnancy, 1,000 mg daily for women ages 19-50. If you are teen mother, your requirement is 1,300 mg daily. There’s some research indicates of bone loss during lactating period but quickly restore during the weaning period. So, be sure to get adequate calcium intake to support good bone health for both mom and baby. Most women doesn’t consume adequate calcium through foods, therefore, it is recommended to continue your calcium supplement while you are lactating unless you are meticulous and knows you get enough calcium through foods, then supplementation is unnecessary.  Make sure that you choose the products that is made from “calcium citrate”, the best form of calcium that are easily absorbable in our body.

VITAMIN A & C
Vitamin A & C are the essential vitamins for wound healing because they are the building blocks for collagen and cell formations.  If you had a C-section, epiosiotomy or a vaginal tear during vaginal birth, then you better pay attention on getting adequate Vitamin A & C to help with tissue repair and shorten your recovery time.  If you are not sure what kind of foods has Vitamin A or C, think red, orange and yellow colored foods such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, orange, bell peppers, tomatoes, papaya, strawberries etc.

GOOD FATS
There’s two types of fat: Saturated Fats (bad fats) and Unsaturated fats (good fats).  We need to focus on good type of fats as they are a major source of calories in helping body meeting the caloric intake to help with milk productions. This doesn’t mean you need to go on a high-fat diet, please don’t do that! Research shows that a high-fat maternal diet actually increases the risk of their baby to become obesity later in life. So, eat and choose your fat intake wisely.  Recommended to have a minimum of 3-4 servings of unsaturated fat daily.  What’s a serving of good fat ? 1 teaspoon cooking oil (olive, canola, safflower),  1 Tablespoon salad dressing, 1/8 avocado and 10 small olives.

WHOLE GRAINS
Whole grains foods provide good fiber, vitamins and minerals for your body after childbirth and to give you the foundation of energy usage and to produce good quality breast milk. Eat a variety of whole grains daily, at least 8-10 servings per day.

FRUITS & VEGETABLES
Constipation is a common problem during pregnancy and postpartum. With the increase iron and calcium intake, this can make constipation worse. Making sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables to help keeping constipation at bay.  Fruits & Vegetables also provides abundance of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants that are good for your during your recovery period.  Eat a least 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

FUN FACTS:
Did you know that in Chinese culture, there’s this so called “confinement month” or  “sitting the month” (坐月子). All mother is required to be resting, house bound for 30 – 40 days and she will have a lot of help during that month from her mother, in-laws or a confinement lady to help her with cooking, house chores, taking care of the baby (that’s the good part), and some activities of daily living that are strictly forbidden (not so cool part). I will discuss the “confinement month” in another article if you are interested in reading.

The Painful Truth About Breastfeeding

Mano!

(Photo: Aurimas Mikalauskas on Flickr)

Breast milk, or the scientific term ‘human milk,’ is the best food mothers can produce for their babies. There are endless benefits ranging from providing antibodies that help reduce sickness and infection, to improving growth, to reducing the risk of obesity as an adult. But successful breastfeeding takes time, patience, and determination.

Before I had my daughter, the idea of breastfeeding always seemed easy and natural to me. I learned about it in college, educated new parents at work, and coached and encouraged my sister through her first exclusive breastfeeding with my nephew. But I didn’t know about the ugly and painful side of it until I experienced it myself. You probably aren’t going to go through all the things on this list, but it’s always good to be in the know and prepared for what might happen.

1) Cramps!
When the baby first latches on and triggers the let-down reflex, the uterus will contract. Imagine a menstrual cramp but multiply the intensity, especially if you had a natural delivery. If you had a C-section, you probably won’t feel much because of all the pain medication you received during labor.

2) Your full milk supply doesn’t always come in within 48-72 hours
If you are one of the small percent of mothers whose milk supply doesn’t come in after day three postpartum, don’t panic! You have milk in your breasts throughout pregnancy, the precious colostrum the baby needs for the first few days of life.

There are many factors that can delay full milk production, such as a long second stage of labor, the quantity of pitocin used during an induction, vaginal vs. Caesarean birth, and simple fatigue and stress. Many women give up trying to breastfeed because of all these influences. However, keep latching baby at the breast or pump between feedings and this will tell your brain there’s an ongoing demand for milk, which in turn stimulates production.

My milk supply didn’t come in fully until the eighth day and I had to supplement with formula. I felt a certain level of guilt about it, feeling like I had somehow failed as a mother (I hadn’t). Once my supply came in, I didn’t have to supplement with formula again. Believe in yourself and don’t give up! The key is ALWAYS feed from the breast for 20-30 minutes first, then if supply is lacking, supplement with formula.

3) Sore and cracked nipples
Sadly, there’s no way to avoid this. The constant suction and heat from the baby’s mouth will leave your nipple sore and sometimes cracked and bleeding. Don’t wash your nipple with soap — the areola has natural oils that help protect and heal the skin. Washing with warm water is sufficient. You can also try expressing a couple drops of breast milk and applying that around your nipple before feeding.

4) Painful engorgement
As milk production continues to increase, painful engorgement will follow. Sometimes baby will only take one breast and you’ll need to pump and empty the other to relieve the pressure. If you have an oversupply of milk, you’ll need to empty the breast more frequently; however, frequent pumping leads to more production as the body recognizes supply is low once the breasts are emptied. If you don’t want to stock up your milk for later use, try wrapping warm, mashed cabbage leaves around the breasts to help slow down the production, which will help reduce the painful engorgement.

5) Leakage
Yes, your milk will leak from one breast when you are feeding the baby from the other. You will feel tingling or pins and needles and then notice your shirt is soaked with milk. This is caused by the let-down reflex, which can also be triggered when you hear your baby or another baby cry. Make sure you have plenty of nursing pads around to avoid these natural, but potentially embarrassing, moments.

6) Plugged Ducts
A plugged milk duct feels like a hard knot in the breast and is very painful to touch and massage. This usually happens when there’s a foremilk-hindmilk imbalance, or overproduction. Hindmilk (rich, creamy, high-fat milk) can thicken and clog the ducts, causing all the milk to back up in one area of the breast, especially if engorgement is prolonged. Sometimes plugging is caused by external pressure, such as a tight shirt and/or a poorly fitting bra.

To alleviate the problem, feed baby from the affected breast because they have powerful suction that can help unclog the ducts. Keep massaging the clogged area while the baby is latched on.

A warm shower can also help. Let the warm water run down the breast for a few minutes, then examine your nipple for a white pimple-like substance (known as a bleb). If you can access it with your finger, try squeezing it out and hand express the breast to see if milk will flow out. If it does, quickly empty the breast with pumping or by feeding baby. If plugged ducts are a recurring issue, you can try taking soy lecithin supplement — 1,200 mg three times a day.

7) Mastitis
Poor feeding and latches, oversupply, restrictive clothing, sudden weaning, and failure to clear a plugged duct can all lead to mastitis, a type of breast infection that is painful and warm to the touch. It’s recommended to keep breastfeeding during the infection, even though you’ll be on antibiotics, because sudden weaning can make things worse. You can choose to pump and dump the milk if you are concerned about it containing the medications you are taking.

8) Milk Blister
Milk blisters are tiny pockets of white or yellow fluid on the nipple or areola. They develop when the skin grows over the pores and blocks the flow of milk and you can usually see the blister bulge outward if you compress the breast.

The best remedy is to break open the skin with a sterile needle (place the needle over an open flame for couple seconds). After draining the blister, immediately apply bacitracin ointment (an antibiotic) to the open area. There will be some pain during breastfeeding as it heals.

9) Galactocele
A galactocele is a benign milk cyst that forms in the mammary gland. Though uncommon, it can form during lactation or weaning. You can usually feel the lump in your breast, but it can only be diagnosed through an X-ray. If the cyst becomes too painful, a doctor or a radiologist will have to aspirate it (remove the fluid through a thin needle).

Good luck to all first time moms and experienced mothers on your breastfeeding journey! Feel free to share your experiences and tips in the comments.