As a pediatric otolaryngologist I get to see a wide variety of kids with head and neck problems. One of my favorite parts of my practice is helping new moms breast feed by improving their kid’s tongue mobility with a simple frenulectomy (removing tissue inside the mouth to free up more movement.) It is a very simple procedure and one that often assists the mother child relationship as it can improve the latch, decrease pain and improve milk transfer. I love helping these new moms in their efforts to breastfeed and hopefully do so as long as they would like.
I was in the NICU the other day discussing the benefits of breastmilk with one of the neonatologists (pediatricians who sub specialize in treating premature children). He explained that a devastating illness which affects premature babies called necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC has been sharply reduced by providing these children with human breastmilk during the first weeks of life. It has, roughly, only been over the last 15 years that this new therapy has been employed to the great benefit of many many premature children across the country. Just another example of the previously unstudied and unexpected benefits of breastfeeding.
I was researching and found some great information on the internet regarding this topic from Wikipedia (the ubiquitous online information site) that I would recommend to anyone interested in further information. Below are just a few interesting paragraphs:
“Health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), recommend breastfeeding exclusively for six months. This means that no other foods or drinks other than possibly vitamin D are typically given. After the introduction of foods at six months of age, recommendations include continued breastfeeding until one to two years of age or more. Globally about 38% of infants are only breastfed during their first six months of life. In the United States, about 75% of women begin breastfeeding and about 13% only breastfeed until the age of six months.[3
There is increasing evidence that suggests that early skin-to-skin contact (also called kangaroo care) between mother and baby stimulates breastfeeding behavior in the baby. Newborns who are immediately placed on their mother’s skin have a natural instinct to latch on to the breast and start nursing, typically within one hour of birth. Immediate skin-to-skin contact may provide a form of imprinting that makes subsequent feeding significantly easier. In addition to more successful breastfeeding and bonding, immediate skin-to-skin contact reduces crying and warms the baby.
Early breastfeeding is associated with fewer nighttime feeding problems. Early skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby improves breastfeeding outcomes and increases cardio-respiratory stability. Reviews from 2007 found numerous benefits. Breastfeeding aids general health, growth and development in the infant. Infants who are not breastfed are at mildly increased risk of developing acute and chronic diseases, including lower respiratory infection, ear infections, bacteremia, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infection and necrotizing enterocolitis. Breastfeeding may protect against sudden infant death syndrome, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic diseases, digestive diseases, obesity, develop diabetes, or childhood leukemia later in life. and may enhance cognitive development.”
There are many benefits that are still unknown and hopefully, every new mom who wants to breastfeed their child will be successful in doing so. Again, helping these new mothers and trying to assist them in their efforts to nurse successfully is one the most gratifying parts of my job.
Dr. David Parry