Mama Knows Breast

Andi in the news

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Watch Andi on THE TODAY SHOW: Click here.

Breastfeeding Reduces Risk of Multiple Sclerosis Relapse Post Partum

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Ok… so I’m doing a lot of posting in one day. The kids are running wild avoiding bed time and my husband is sick… so why shouldn’t I blog and ignore the mess in the kitchen?! Why not…
Here’s a news story I came across today. A study in the Archives of Neurology found that breastfeeding can help prevent the relapse of multiple sclerosis after pregnancy. From the study:
Our findings show that exclusive breastfeeding (and prolonged lactational amenorrhea) significantly reduces the risk of postpartum relapses of MS. Ongoing and future studies of postpartum disease activity in MS, particularly treatment trials, should distinguish between exclusive and nonexclusive breastfeeding and account for it in their analysis.
Our findings also suggest that women with MS should be encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first 2 months postpartum in lieu of starting IMA treatment shortly after delivery. These findings highlight the need to critically evaluate the efficacy of early postpartum treatments in MS, especially if they are not compatible with lactation.

Dirty Babies– Stronger Immune System

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For the record, I am not compulsive about cleanliness or hand washing. But I will wash my hands, and the kids hands, before eating and after bathroom trips. For some reason, however, my mom thinks I’m a wee bit uptight about the hand washing thing. “A little dirt is a good thing,” she’ll say. Seems like mama really does know best. Here’s the latest from the NYT… dirt can actually help build a baby’s immune system. Here’s the article.
Ask mothers why babies are constantly picking things up from the floor or ground and putting them in their mouths, and chances are they’ll say that it’s instinctive — that that’s how babies explore the world. But why the mouth, when sight, hearing, touch and even scent are far better at identifying things?
When my young sons were exploring the streets of Brooklyn, I couldn’t help but wonder how good crushed rock or dried dog droppings could taste when delicious mashed potatoes were routinely rejected.
Since all instinctive behaviors have an evolutionary advantage or they would not have been retained for millions of years, chances are that this one too has helped us survive as a species. And, indeed, accumulating evidence strongly suggests that eating dirt is good for you.
In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system. Several continuing studies suggest that worms may help to redirect an immune system that has gone awry and resulted in autoimmune disorders, allergies and asthma.
These studies, along with epidemiological observations, seem to explain why immune system disorders like multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma and allergies have risen significantly in the United States and other developed countries.
Training the Immune System
“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment,” Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, “Why Dirt Is Good” (Kaplan). “Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”
One leading researcher, Dr. Joel V. Weinstock, the director of gastroenterology and hepatology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, said in an interview that the immune system at birth “is like an unprogrammed computer. It needs instruction.”
He said that public health measures like cleaning up contaminated water and food have saved the lives of countless children, but they “also eliminated exposure to many organisms that are probably good for us.”
“Children raised in an ultraclean environment,” he added, “are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits.”
Studies he has conducted with Dr. David Elliott, a gastroenterologist and immunologist at the University of Iowa, indicate that intestinal worms, which have been all but eliminated in developed countries, are “likely to be the biggest player” in regulating the immune system to respond appropriately, Dr. Elliott said in an interview. He added that bacterial and viral infections seem to influence the immune system in the same way, but not as forcefully.
Most worms are harmless, especially in well-nourished people, Dr. Weinstock said.
“There are very few diseases that people get from worms,” he said. “Humans have adapted to the presence of most of them.”
Worms for Health
In studies in mice, Dr. Weinstock and Dr. Elliott have used worms to both prevent and reverse autoimmune disease. Dr. Elliott said that in Argentina, researchers found that patients with multiple sclerosis who were infected with the human whipworm had milder cases and fewer flare-ups of their disease over a period of four and a half years. At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, Dr. John Fleming, a neurologist, is testing whether the pig whipworm can temper the effects of multiple sclerosis.
In Gambia, the eradication of worms in some villages led to children’s having increased skin reactions to allergens, Dr. Elliott said. And pig whipworms, which reside only briefly in the human intestinal tract, have had “good effects” in treating the inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, he said.
How may worms affect the immune system? Dr. Elliott explained that immune regulation is now known to be more complex than scientists thought when the hygiene hypothesis was first introduced by a British epidemiologist, David P. Strachan, in 1989. Dr. Strachan noted an association between large family size and reduced rates of asthma and allergies. Immunologists now recognize a four-point response system of helper T cells: Th 1, Th 2, Th 17 and regulatory T cells. Th 1 inhibits Th 2 and Th 17; Th 2 inhibits Th 1 and Th 17; and regulatory T cells inhibit all three, Dr. Elliott said.
“A lot of inflammatory diseases — multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and asthma — are due to the activity of Th 17,” he explained. “If you infect mice with worms, Th 17 drops dramatically, and the activity of regulatory T cells is augmented.”
In answer to the question, “Are we too clean?” Dr. Elliott said: “Dirtiness comes with a price. But cleanliness comes with a price, too. We’re not proposing a return to the germ-filled environment of the 1850s. But if we properly understand how organisms in the environment protect us, maybe we can give a vaccine or mimic their effects with some innocuous stimulus.”
Wash in Moderation
Dr. Ruebush, the “Why Dirt Is Good” author, does not suggest a return to filth, either. But she correctly points out that bacteria are everywhere: on us, in us and all around us. Most of these micro-organisms cause no problem, and many, like the ones that normally live in the digestive tract and produce life-sustaining nutrients, are essential to good health.
“The typical human probably harbors some 90 trillion microbes,” she wrote. “The very fact that you have so many microbes of so many different kinds is what keeps you healthy most of the time.”
Dr. Ruebush deplores the current fetish for the hundreds of antibacterial products that convey a false sense of security and may actually foster the development of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. Plain soap and water are all that are needed to become clean, she noted.
“I certainly recommend washing your hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after changing a diaper, before and after handling food,” and whenever they’re visibly soiled, she wrote. When no running water is available and cleaning hands is essential, she suggests an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Dr. Weinstock goes even further. “Children should be allowed to go barefoot in the dirt, play in the dirt, and not have to wash their hands when they come in to eat,” he said. He and Dr. Elliott pointed out that children who grow up on farms and are frequently exposed to worms and other organisms from farm animals are much less likely to develop allergies and autoimmune diseases.
Also helpful, he said, is to “let kids have two dogs and a cat,” which will expose them to intestinal worms that can promote a healthy immune system.

Updated: The Winners of the method Baby Products

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UPDATED: Here are the winners:
“The most surprising part about becoming a parent: how much my view of the world has changed, including how I both gained additional understanding for my parents and yet also felt additional confusion. “ Posted by: Ewokmama
“The most surprising thing for me, throughout pregnancy and now while nursing my twins, is how different men and women really are. Physically, my husband can’t do as much for the boys as I do (nursing) and emotionally we respond to them in different, but both loving, ways.” Posted by: Sally
If you won, please email me your mailing address.

I’ve had allergies all spring. Either that, or a cold. Or maybe both. Who knows.
I do know I sometimes get exczema, so I’m always on the lookout for “green” personal care and cleaning products. And here’s my latest find…method. Actually, to be clear, method found me. Earlier this spring, the method folks emailed me asking me to host a party at their temporary store in New York City. After doing a bit of due diligence, I decided I liked the company’s dedication to non-toxic products. And so, I said, sign me up. (To learn more about this, go to the bottom of the method site, click on either FAQ or Company Info.)
The party wasn’t your typical “tupperware” fest. In fact, there was little talk of cleaning. Instead, a “mixologist” taught us how to make organic drinks. The Liquid Muse…aka Natalie…made the best mojito I have EVER had. Ever. And fortunately, I’m not pregnant or breastfeeding, so I didn’t have to consider anything other than my low tolerance.
Here’s the recipe for that mojito.
Method Mojito
(Recipe created by The Liquid Muse, and inspired by Method Home)

1 heaping tablespoon of peeled, seeded and diced organic cucumber
1 heaping tablespoon of diced organic lime
1 teaspoon raw brown sugar
3-5 torn mint leaves
1 1/2 ounces organic vodka (Square One has a new cucumber-infused one!)
organic sparkling lemonade
Muddle cucumber, sugar and mint leaves in tall glass. Pour in vodka. Fill with ice. Top with sparkling lemonade. Garnish with a sprig of mint or lime wheel.

Now for the exciting part…I have a giveaway of method’s new line of baby and kids’ products. You can read about them here on the method blog. The kind folks at method have put together a collection of theses items.
To win, please leave a comment answering this question: What has been the most surprising part of being pregnant or a new parent? The deadline to enter this contest is June 25th. I’ll be away until then, so you may not see your comment posted until I get back.

Breastfeeding in The News

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Here’s the latest from around the web:
The blog Delicious Baby has a comprehensive guide to pumping and nursing in airports and on airplanes.
The FDA is proposing changes to prescription drug labels that will give more information to pregnant and breastfeeding women. Read here.
A new study found that breastmilk may give baby girls more protection than boys against respiratory infections. Read here.
Two new studies done in Africa have found that drug treatment can help prevent the transmission of HIV through breastmilk. Read here.

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding

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There are always new stories about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Here are some recent ones:
Breastfeeding can reduce the mother’s risk of getting rheumatoid arthritis.. Here’s another article on this from the NYT.
A new study suggests that a mother’s seizure medication taken to control epilepsy is not harmful to her breastfed infant. The findings are preliminary, and not considered definitive.
Finally, a new study found that breastfeeding can reduce the mother’s risk of getting metabolic syndrome, a combination of factors that puts you at risk for heart disease and diabetes. Here’s a definition of metabolic syndrome. (Via Motherwear blog).

Answering Your Breastfeeding Questions

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I’ve been doing some guest writing on The Nest Baby, a cool site for new moms. Readers have been submitting questions about breastfeeding and I’ve been answering them. You can check out all of the answers on this link. You can also jump right to the specific questions from these links:
Breastfeeding Positions
Breast Lumps and Nursing
Dealing with Thrush
Inverted Nippes
Milk Blisters
Newborn Eating Enough?
Getting Help At Home
Prepping to Nurse?
Prepping to Pump?
Pumping and Work
Pumping Problems
Storing Breastmilk
Travel while Nursing
Weaning and Milk Supply
Pumping Extra Milk
If you have a specific question, feel free to email me any time at

Does Breastfeeding Make Your Breasts Sag? New Study Says No

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From December 2003 to March 2006 I was either pregnant or breastfeeding. Not a day off. I got pregnant with The Bear while still breastfeeding The Bortski. So for a while I wasn’t quite sure how things would look in the boob department once I was all done with the baby feeding thing. So what happened? Let’s just say my bra size has changed. I won’t tell you which way it went….up or down. But let’s just say that it’s different. And almost any mom will tell you something similar.
All the literature I’ve ever read says that breast changes are due to the pregnancy itself, weight gain, weight loss and heredity. Breastfeeding has nothing to do with it. Now a study that came out last month confirms that breastfeeding doesn’t make your boobs sag. Here’s some information from WebMD.
“Expectant mothers should be reassured that breastfeeding does not appear to have an adverse effect upon breast appearance,” report University of Kentucky plastic surgeon Brian Rinker, MD, and colleagues.
They interviewed 132 women who came to their plastic surgery clinic to get breast augmentation or a surgical lift for sagging breasts.
The women were 39 years old, on average. The majority — 93 patients — had had at least one pregnancy. Most of the moms — 58% — had breastfed at least one child.
Rinker’s team noted the women’s medical history, BMI (body mass index), pre-pregnancy bra cup size, smoking status, and other factors.
The bottom line: “Breastfeeding does not adversely affect breast shape, beyond the effects of pregnancy alone,” conclude Rinker and colleagues
However, four other factors were linked to breast sagging:
* Older age
* Cigarette smoking
* Larger pre-pregnancy bra cup size
* Greater number of pregnancies
Age and cigarette smoking both hamper skin’s elasticity, note the researchers.

When I first learned about this study, and realized it was done by some plastic surgeons, I was a bit skeptical. Their ultimate goal, obviously, is to plant the idea in women’s heads that a boob job is the way to go post-baby. But put that aside for a moment, and focus on the study’s bottom line. Breastfeeding is not going to change your figure. I guess it’s nice to get a thumbs up for breastfeeding, no matter where it comes from.


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My husband coined a new term last week, “Exhaustitis Mamatosis.” Definition: (noun) a state of extreme exhaustion and fatigue experienced by moms. Symptoms include falling asleep during car rides, misplacing keys, self-inflicted injuries and circles under the eyes.
My most recent manifestation of E.M….a terribly clumsy fall last night. I tripped on one of the childproofing safety gates in the apartment, fell forward, knocking the gate off the wall and sending my plate (food and all) flying across the floor. I landed on top of the gate. Fortunately I only bruised my knee and ego.
So there you have it. Exhaustitis Mamatosis. In truth, my husband called it Exhaustitis Milfitosis, but I figured that required another level of explanation altogether. So let’s keep it more PG.
Are you too suffering from E.M? What have you done, or forgot to do as a result of E.M? And if you’ve got a cure, please let me know.

Drinking Water and Breast Feeding

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We’ve all heard the general advice to drink 8 glasses of water a day. But if you’re pregnant or breast feeding you need even more fluids. Personally, after both kids were born I was always thirsty. Constantly. I always had a glass of water on my night stand. If I didn’t, I found myself begging my husband to get me a glass.
So how much water should you be drinking? Dr. Sears, in “The Breastfeeding Book,” recommends drinking at least ten 8 ounce glasses of water a day (page 74). He says try to drink a glass of water every time your infant feeds. Then add in a few more glasses during the day.
But if you’re like me, and you easily lose track of what you’ve had, here’s another way to gauge if you’re getting enough water. says:
Breastfeeding mothers may feel thirstier than usual. You can gauge your fluid intake by looking at your urine; if it’s dark, you need to drink more liquids. No scientific studies have found that drinking more fluid will result in producing more breast milk; however, not getting enough to drink can affect how much milk is produced.
Dr. Sears, on the other hand, says (p. 74): “Because milk-making hormones help your body conserve water, failing to drink enough water will not affect the fluid content or volume of your milk. But not getting enough fluids can contribute to maternal constipation, fatigue and impaired concentration.” Also, remember, anything with caffeine is actually a diuretic and fruit juices have extra caolories.
Given all this, it makes sense that Jennifer at The Lactivist started a new blog chain, asking other bloggers to post a picture of their preferred mode of consuming all that water. She showed us her big huge blue mug.
Here are some other moms who have been tagged along the way: Natural Moms want a glass that won’t break so often. Nature Moms has a great shot of her mug in the desert where she hikes every day. Sinead at Breastfeeding Mums drinks so much water her doctor was worried she had diabetes (she doesn’t). BabyTalkers has one enormous bottle that she sips at all day while her son works on his sippy cup!
Now you can see my hydrating attempts in the photo above. I’ve got the Brita and glass of water on my desk at all times. And when I’m out doing errands or taking the boys to the park, I’ve always got a bottle or two of Poland Spring water stashed under the stroller.
In reality, I find it hard to drink enough water. Sometimes half a day goes by before I realize I haven’t had anything except a cup of coffee. So this post has actually been a good way to remind myself to drink up! And now it’s my turn to remind a couple of other bloggers. I tag…Haiku Mama and The Mommy Blawg.

Breast feeding and Thyroid Problems

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Have you ever tried to take a baby with you to one of your doctor’s appointments? It might seem practical. You don’t need a sitter. You don’t have to worry that the baby will get hungry while you’re away…especially if he won’t take a bottle. So I do it all the time. Maybe not one of my smartest moves.
Invariably, there are the steps to drag the stroller up, a narrow examining room and the challenge of keeping the baby from trying to grab the stirrups in the Ob’s office. Lovely. As always, there’s the perfectly timed crying. Just as the doctor prepares to examine you, the screaming starts. And let’s not forget the last time I took The Bear (our now 7 month old) to the doctor with me– a plane crashed into a building a few blocks away. The appointment was cancelled.
So I had pretty low expectations when I went back to the doctor to try the appointment again. I was seeing an endocrinologist because it turns out my thyroid has decided to go haywire after this pregnancy. I have something called Hashimoto’s. Basically it’s an auto-immune condition where the immune system attacks the thyroid. This creates hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid. So now I’m taking thyroid replacement medicine.
Of course my questions were: (1) is the thyroid imbalance bad for the baby if I’m breastfeeding? (2) is it ok to take the medication, Synthroid, if I’m breastfeeding? As any good former reporter (or anal mom) would do, I checked multiple sources. I found this link about breastfeeding and thyroid conditions. And per the pediatrician, my general practitioner, my endocrinologist and my gynecologist (oh and a second endocrinologist I saw after The Bortskerini was born), Synthroid is just fine if I’m breastfeeding. In fact, it should make me feel better.
Now to be fair, I didn’t really feel all that bad. Just VERY tired. But then again I have two kids, and a baby who doesn’t sleep through the night. So we’ll see if the thyroid medication will help. (Exhaustion and depression are hypothyroid symptoms).
In the meantime, maybe The Bear will start to take pity on us and stop waking up at 4 in the morning…a mere two hours before his big brother, The Bortskerini decides to yell, at the top of his lungs, “HELP!!!”
If you’re concerned about any medication you may be taking while breastfeeding, check here.