Breast cancer is the most common diagnosed cancer leading to death among women in the U.S. Breast Cancer kills black women at a higher rate compared to white women despite the same economic and educational backgrounds. It once was thought that just reproduction helped to reduce the risk of breast cancers however, studies show that breastfeeding actually lowers the risk more! That is right, sitting around loving on your baby feeding your baby with your body helps lower your risk of breast cancer!
Breastfeeding or inducing lactation is a modifiable behavior that you can choose to do to help lower your risk, like choosing to exercise and change your diet in order lower your cholesterol. Breastfeeding also helps to reduce the risk for endometrial cancers AND ovarian cancer. It can also help reduce the risk of certain chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes.
Breastfeeding helps decrease the risk because the act of lactating changes the hormones and molecular histology in the breast. Much like pregnancy changes your body because of the different interaction of hormones, milk production does the same thing.
Older studies show that breastfeeding or inducing lactation can decrease your breast cancer risk by 14% if you do ANY breastfeeding. This number goes up the longer you breastfeed. Newer studies show 28% decrease risk if you breastfeed for at least 12 months!. Emerging studies shows that breastfeeding or inducing lactation has saved at least 20k deaths per year from breast cancer and if parents can nurse longer (12 months) they predict decreasing another 20k in deaths. All studies have showed that the benefit of decreased risk stays with you for a lifetime not just while you are nursing so no worries you do not have to nurse "forever". I know it feels that way sometimes though!
Black women, being more at risk for more aggressive types of breast cancer, can significantly decrease their risks by breastfeeding or inducing lactation. The longer the better, clearly, and any has been shown to be helpful as well as exclusive human milk feeding.
I personally understand that some parents do have some struggles with breastfeeding. The studies do not clearly state if full breastmilk production is necessary, as some state that these decreased risk are afforded to mothers even if they offer some formula, exclusively pump, and do not produce breastmilk for the entire year. There are also several societal barriers to breastfeeding that keeps parents from being able to take advantage of these health benefits. There have been some laws in place to protect parents like making sure that parents can breastfeed anywhere they have the right to be and also the Affordable Care Act making sure that parents can have the necessary pump breaks needed to maintain their milk supply while separated from the baby. States like Virginia have strengthened the Affordable Care Act by passing laws making sure that parents are protected.
Lactation Consultants (Ibclc), like myself, are doing the work supporting parents that are choosing to breastfeed get the help they need to make their goals and fighting the good fight to make sure these consultations are covered by insurance to make them more affordable.
Together we can help each other and you just keep on providing that milk for yourself and your baby!
Have questions about anything that I have mentioned in this blog post? Please leave a comment below or contact me here. I'd love to hear from you.
**Trigger Warning talk of miscarriage and infant loss**
Pregnancy and infant loss is not something that is talked about often and judging from the comments that Christy Teigen received when she announced her loss, we as a society should probably talk about it more.
It is a loss that is indescribable and difficult to understand. As someone who has had 2 miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy, I had no idea how to feel. I blamed myself, I blamed God, I blamed the world. I told no one except people I felt should know because I was ashamed—my body could not do the one thing that it was designed to do. The people I did tell had nothing comforting to say or I was either met with silence. Each loss was harder and harder. I never allowed myself to get “excited” about my sweet rainbow babies until I had them in my arms.
As a birth doula, I have sat with many mothers who had to leave the hospital without their babies and go home to empty decorated nurseries. I found myself being the only source of comfort when their family didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I do not always have the answers as I didn’t even have them for myself, but it is nice to know that you are supported and comforted and know that your love ones still love you.
1 in 4 mothers experience a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or an infant death. We need to talk about this more. We need to figure out how to support parents through this without forcing them to deal with it in silence. We as a society need to figure out how to let mothers know that their feelings are valid, and that they are scene, that their babies lived, and that their babies are loved. We need to allow them the space to grieve in the way that they feel necessary to bring about healing.
Talking it through with trusted family or a therapist, sharing your grief at a grief circle, or pumping breast milk and donate as legacy to your sweet angel. No matter how you choose to process your loss, it is the right choice for you. Your baby lived, and your baby is loved.
If you would love to share your story, I would love to hear about it and together we can process this as a community.
I got this message in my inbox this week about 3 times! I thought I was nuts at first, then thought maybe there was a glitch in the email matrix. What are the odds that three different moms are experiencing the same unique issue at the same time? Could be a coincidence or could be the stars aligning for a helpful blog post.
There are a few reasons why mom's are experiencing a poor latch on one breast or shallow latch only on one side. Let's talk about 3:
1) birth trauma/birth injury: Sometimes emergencies happen during the birthing process and OB's or midwives have to make quick decisions in order to get the baby out quickly to make sure the birthing parents and the infant make it through the birth alive. This sometimes means the use of a vacuum or the forceps. These tools can sometimes cause damage to the head and neck of the infant which makes some of the more traditional nursing positions uncomfortable and making it hard to eat when laying on one side or the other. This will cause the infant to have poor latching, shallow latching, or breast refusal of one side.
2) awkward positioning: when we look at pictures of babies in the womb they are beautifully placed head down with their legs in "criss cross applesauce" head perfectly aligned. That picture is not always real life. Sometimes they are breech presentation (butt down), sometimes their heads are positioned where their chin is more into their chest, sometimes their head is positioned more backwards, and sometimes it is more to the side. These positions can cause some tightness in the neck muscles which can make latching in certain positions more difficult and uncomfortable. Imagine sleeping weird and wake up with a stiff neck. Definitely not comfortable.
3) head shape: With vaginal deliveries infant's heads can come out a bit "cone" shaped. Sometimes the facial bones can shift as well to make that amazing journey out of the uterus. While the baby's head is made for this, having soft flexible bones and connective tissues, that move in the best ways to make the journey out, this "shaping" can make latching in the first couple of days/weeks difficult. In most cases baby's head will work itself out but it can make some difficulties early on.
So what can we do to fix the poor latch on one breast or the shallow latch on one side?
1) Make an appointment with a lactation consultant. Sometimes meeting with a consultant in person or virtually can help the LC see the infant's behavior and can make suggestion from that. Lactation Consultants can do oral exams on the infant, check suction strength of the infant, and will watch how the infant moves and how the baby is being positioned to determine what movements are natural and what movements are cause for concern. I always suggest an appointment with a lactation consultant first and then going from there.
2) Try different nursing positions. If the baby is comfortable with the cradle hold on one side try doing the football hold on the other side. This keeps the infant in the same position that they are comfortable in and helps them to be able to latch on the other side. Laid back nursing position is also a great position to help keep the baby in a more "neutral" position encouraging infant to latch more deeply and to take both breasts.
3) Try Chiropractic work: Chiropractic care is an alternative treatment of mechanical disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Some medical professional are not sure if chiropractic care is safe for infants and children. There are chiropractors that specialize in the care of children and the procedure is very gentle. I personally have seen improvements in the infants that I have suggested to see a chiropractor, however, it's up to you parents! Talk to your child's health professional and make sure that the chiropractor specializes in children care.
4) Cranial sacral therapy (CST): This is a form of body work that uses gentle touch in order to palpate the synarthrodial joints. Some medical professionals do not believe that CST works and should not be used on children. The ball is in your court parents! If you would like to try this method of osteopathy make sure it is a certified professional that will perform the therapy and speak with your child's peditrician or health care provider first!
Remember these are suggestions and should not take the place of you working with a lactation consultant in person and talking with your child's doctor.
If you have had this issue, what worked for you? Let's talk about it! Leave what worked for you in the comments I'd love to see it!
Do you have questions? Leave them below or email me Dominique@DominiqueDoula.com
This place is currently a work in progress but will eventually hold my thoughts, tips and tricks for parents, and helpful suggestions on making life a little easier. I hope that you find this space both helpful and entertaining. Check back soon! This is going to be fun!
Dominique Gallo, IBCLC, RLC
Gallo Birth Services serves anyone in the U.S. virtually. Gallo Birth Services serves in-person all of the families of the Roanoke Valley including Roanoke City and County, Vinton, Salem, Blacksburg, Christianburg, and all surrounding areas.