Breast Cancer Stigma: It’s a Global Issue

During graduate school, I learned about breast cancer stigma and the role it played in breast cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.  When we think of stigma in health, HIV or AIDS may come to mind; however, women and men (read Breast Cancer in Men) around the world have experienced stigma due to breast cancer.

Here are the facts:

  • Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women
  • In 2012, 1.7 million women around the world were diagnosed with breast cancer
  • Approximately 500,000 women die from cancer each year
  • The incidence rates vary from 27 per 100,000 in Middle Africa and Eastern Asia to 92 per 100,000 in North America1
  • Nearly 50% of breast cancer cases and 58% of deaths occur in less developed countries2

A lack of education, access to adequate healthcare, and medical bias are a few factors that may impact data; outside of family history, genetics, age, lifestyle factors, and even cultural beliefs. However, stigma may also play a role in the number of people seeking care at later stages and dying.

Why the stigma?

“I think about fear, death, and loneliness.” – Uknown3

The association between cancer and death is a major cause of stigma.4 Personally, I remember being a teenager when I found a lump on my right breast.  My first thought was cancer. Afraid to tell my mother, I waited a few days until I finally said something.  Thankfully, the lump was only an abscess that I was able to treat with antibiotics.  Others may not have the same experience.

In a recent article published by BioMed Central, Breast cancer stigma among Indonesian women case study of breast cancer patients, participants in a breast cancer study had, “negative perceptions towards breast cancer screening because of their experience of fear and shame,” and the “fear of suffering from the disease” was even greater.4 One participant did not seek care for 3 months when experiencing pain, and other participants were diagnosed with an advance stage of cancer when they sought care.4

“If you get treatment early enough, they say you should be ok…it could be the end.” – Unknown3

A cancer study conducted in South Africa found similar findings regarding stigma.5 Participants stated that a physician’s diagnosis was important, but that cancer would lead to negative perceptions from community members.5 A key finding from this study revealed that stigma resulted from the belief that HIV/AIDS and cancer were the same.  According to the study, “cancer stigma due to conflation of stereotypes of deadliness associated with HIV may contribute to negative consequences, including social isolation.”

While there continues to be stigma regarding breast cancer, the rates of survival have improved because more people are being diagnosed at an earlier stage.1

Combating stigma

What are some ways that stigma is being combated?

Education – Education is a means to combat cancer stigma by clearing misconceptions and increasing knowledge. Healthcare professionals, especially community health workers, can provide this education.

Relay for Life, 2018 – We walked in honor of our co-worker and friend who’s a survivor.

Awareness – Events like Relay for Life bring awareness to breast cancer and empowers many.

Community outreach programs – Community outreach programs can provide education in a formal or informal way.  They may also serve as a support system for survivors and those battling cancer. 

Increasing social support – One of the reasons some are afraid of getting screened for breast cancer is because they perceive they’ll receive a negative reaction from those close to them. Educating families and increasing social support between patients and their families may help with early detection and treatment.

Times are steadily changing, and we’re living in a world where education and information is within close reach for many. Nevertheless, we have more to do to combat stigma when it comes to cancer; especially when it comes to stigma related to breast cancer in men, and other types of cancer that are often overlooked and not widely spoken of.

Sources:

World Cancer Research Foundation/American Institute for Cancer Research. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Breast-cancer-report.pdf.

World Health Organization. (n.d.). Breast Cancer Prevention and Control. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/cancer/detection/breastcancer/en/index1.html.

Livestrong. (n.d.). Cancer Stigma and Silence Around The World: A Livestrong Report. Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.org/sites/default/files/what-we-do/reports/lsglobalresearchreport.pdf.

Solikhah, S., Matahari, R., Utami, F.P. et al. Breast cancer stigma among Indonesian women: a case study of breast cancer patients. BMC Women’s Health 20116 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12905-020-00983-x

Oystacher, T., Blasco, D., He, E., Huang, D., Schear, R., McGoldrick, D., Link, B., & Yang, L. H. (2018). Understanding stigma as a barrier to accessing cancer treatment in South Africa: implications for public health campaigns. The Pan African medical journal29, 73. https://doi.org/10.11604/pamj.2018.29.73.14399

Breast Cancer in Men

October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  You may see ads of survivors and supporters lavished in pink, bringing awareness to the impact that breast cancer has made on the lives of many. However, one group may be overlooked…men.

While the percentage is low, men also get breast cancer. Male breast cancer makes up less than 1% of all breast cancer cases in the United States.1 According to the American Cancer Society, 2,620 men will be diagnosed with, and 520 men will die from, breast cancer by the end of 2020.2

A male’s breast tissue can develop cancerous cells in various parts of the breast. Although normally not functional in men, cancer can begin in the ducts that carry milk to the nipple (ductal cancers) and glands that make milk (lobular cancers). Ductal carcinoma in situ, invasive lobular carcinoma, and invasive ductal carcinoma are the most common types of breast cancer in men. 3

Risk Factors

The risk factors for breast cancer among women and men are similar in many ways. However, there are two differences. Liver disease and conditions that affect the testicles increases the risk that a man will develop breast cancer.

Picture by Tumisu from Pixabay

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020  

Signs and Symptoms

Picture from the Indian Journal of Surgical Oncology, 2020

Common signs and symptoms of male breast cancer are:

  • Nipple discharge
  • Pain in the nipple area
  • Pulling in of the nipple
  • A lump or swelling in the breast
  • Redness or flaky skin around the breast
  • Irritation or dimpling of the breast

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020  

Diagnosis

Clinical breast exam – Similar to a woman’s breast exam, a doctor uses their fingers to exam the breast.

Imaging tests – Men can receive an X-ray or ultrasound.

Biopsy – The most conclusive way to determine if cancer is present. Tissue is extracted from the area and examined.  

Source: Mayo Clinic, 2020

Treatment

Surgery – Removal of tumor and breast tissue

Radiation therapy – May be used after surgery to remove cancerous cells  

Hormone therapy – Tamoxifen may be used for treatment as other hormone therapy treatments used for women may not work

Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy may be administered intravenously, through a pill, or both

Source: Mayo Clinic, 2020

Prevention

Picture by Teamsmashgames from Pixabay

Though there are risk factors that put men at a greater risk of developing breast cancer, making healthy lifestyle changes, weight management, exercising, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking may lower the risk that a man will develop most types of cancer.

As we acknowledge women impacted by breast cancer, let us remember that there are men who have survived and lost their lives to the same disease.

Resources:

The Male Breast Cancer Coalition                        

American Cancer Society

Sources:

Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Breast Cancer in Men. Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/breast_center/breast_cancers_other_conditions/breast_cancer_in_men.html.

American Cancer Society. (2020). Key Statistics for Breast Cancer in Men. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer-in-men/about/key-statistics.html.

American Cancer Society. (2018). What is Breast Cancer in Men? Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer-in-men/about/what-is-breast-cancer-in-men.html.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Breast Cancer in Men. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/breast/men/.

Mayo Clinic. (2020). Male breast cancer. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-breast-cancer/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20374745.

First Image from Comanche County Memorial Hospital

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is caused by a growth of abnormal cells in the breast which may cause a tumor (lump in breast).  There are actually different types of breast cancer with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) and invasive carcinoma being the most common types, while phyllodes tumors and angiosarcoma are the less common types.1

Breast Cancer Facts

  • Breast cancer is the most common type of among women around the world
  • 1 in 8 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime
  • There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
  • There are over 3.5 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.
  • On average, every 2 minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.

Source: National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., 2020

Signs and Symptoms

  • swelling of all or part of the breast
  • skin irritation or dimpling
  • breast pain
  • nipple pain or the nipple turning inward
  • redness, scaliness, or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
  • a nipple discharge other than breast milk
  • a lump in the underarm area

Source: Breastcancer.org, 2020

Image from Know Your Lemons

Methods of Detection

Self-breast exam

While research has “not shown a clear benefit of regular physical breast exams done by either a health professional (clinical breast exams) or by women themselves (breast self-exams),” women should continue to do a self-breast exam to detect any changes in the breast.4


Images from National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

Mammograms

A mammogram is an x-ray of the breast and can detect cancer years before symptoms occur.

Three-dimensional [3D] Mammography (Digital Breast Tomosynthesis) is a newer type of mammogram that finds more types of breast cancer and is beneficial for women with denser breast.

What are the mammogram recommendations?

Age RangeAnnuallyEvery Two Years
Women ages 40-44XN/A
Women ages 45-54XN/A
Women 55 and olderAnnually OR Every Two Years

Risk Factors

Like other chronic diseases, there are factors that increases a person’s susceptibility of developing breast cancer. Those factors include:

  • Family history
  • Age
  • Genetic mutations
  • Reproductive history (starting menstrual cycle before 12 and beginning menopause after 55)
  • History of breast cancer
  • Previous use of radiation
  • Being inactive
  • Being overweight
  • Over consumption of alcohol
  • Diet

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018

Prevention


Picture by BreakingPic from Pexels

There are risk factors that you do have control over that may lower your risk of developing cancer.

Exercise

Being overweight increases your chances of developing cancer. Regularly exercising and being physically active may reduce your risk of developing cancer.

Diet

Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables may lower your risk of cancer.  However, more research is needed to determine which foods provide the most benefits.

Avoid Alcohol

There is a link between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. For women who do drink, they should not have more than 1 alcoholic drink per day.6

In honor of all those who have died from breast cancer, and all the survivors, let’s do our part by educating ourselves and those around us about cancer prevention and early detection.

Resources:

American Cancer Society

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc.

Sources:

American Cancer Society. (2019). What is breast cancer? Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/about/what-is-breast-cancer.html.           

National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (2020). Breast Cancer Facts. Retrieved from https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-cancer-facts#:~:text=Breast%20cancer%20is%20the%20most,survivors%20in%20the%20United%20States..

Breastcancer.org. (2020). Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from https://www.breastcancer.org/symptoms.

American Cancer Society. (2020). American Cancer Society Recommendations for the Early Detection of Breast Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/american-cancer-society-recommendations-for-the-early-detection-of-breast-cancer.html.

American Cancer Society. (2020). Mammogram Basics. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/screening-tests-and-early-detection/mammograms/mammogram-basics.html.

American Cancer Society. (2020). Can I Lower My Risk of Breast Cancer? Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/breast-cancer/risk-and-prevention/can-i-lower-my-risk.html.

Medication Management

What is medication management and why is it important? Medication management is simply a method used to safely take medication as prescribed. One of the benefits of medication management is that it can prevent medication errors which can lead to hospitalization, disability, and even death.

You can practice medication management by:

  • Speaking with a doctor and/or pharmacist about your medications
  • Read prescription bottles
  • Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist questions
  • Keeping track of all prescribed and over-the-counter medications
  • Keep a medication list in your wallet
  • Keep a medication list in a safe, but visible place in your home
  • Know what each medication is for
  • Know what each medication looks like
  • Refill prescriptions before your run out
  • Use a pill organizer if taking multiple medications
  • Make sure your caregiver knows about your medications
  • Continue to take medication unless you have an allergic reaction such as rash, itchiness, swelling, or trouble breathing
  • Keep medications away from children
  • Do not share medication(s)

Practicing medication management is vital in preventing medication errors and managing your health.

Picture by Laurynas Mereckas from Unsplash

Fall Prevention for Older Adults

September 21-25 is Fall Prevention Awareness Week.  The purpose of this health observance week is to provide education to people on ways they can prevent falls. 

When diving into the data on falls, you can see why this matter is a public health issue.

The Facts:

  • Thirty million older adults (age 65+) fall each year
  • Each year, 3 million older adults are treated for a fall injury
  • 1 in 5 falls results in a broken bone or head injury
  • 300,000 older adults are hospitalized because of a fall
  • 95% of hip fractures are caused by a fall
  • Every 20 minutes an older adult dies from a fall in the U.S.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019

Although you are more likely to fall as you get older, there are ways to prevent from doing so.

Medication Management

There are medications linked to falls. Some medications may cause sleep deprivation, disorientation, and even a drop in blood pressure. It is important that you practice medication management by taking your medication(s) as prescribed and speaking with your doctor about medication interactions and side effects.

Hearing and Vision


Picture by Williamsje1 from Pixabay

A change in your hearing and vision may cause a fall.  The function of the ear is not only for the sense of hearing, but it is also connected to balance. Hearing is also important so that you can know what is going on in your surroundings.  A small change in hearing decibels increases your likelihood of falling.

Trouble seeing may cause you to miss a step, walk on a slippery surface, or even walk into something. Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma are a few diseases that impact vision and increases your chances of falling. It’s been shown that removing cataracts from one eye greatly reduces falling.

You should have your hearing and vision checked annually.

Sleep

Aging changes our sleep pattern.  As we age, we spend more time in lighter sleep causing sleep deprivation and a slower reaction time.  Try practicing sleep hygiene to get more sleep.

Exercise

Regularly exercising and being physically active can prevent falls. Strength training builds muscles, flexibility exercises prevent injuries and helps with recovery, balance exercises can make you more agile.  You should create an exercise plan that incorporates all four types of exercise.

Nutrition

Nutrition is important for weight loss and fall prevention. Calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and vitamin K are imperative for bone health.  Foods like low-fat dairy, salmon, collard greens, broccoli, protein, spinach, kale, and fortified breakfast cereals provide nutrients for healthy bones. While some people are encouraged to take over-the-counter vitamins, it is best to get nutrients from foods instead of vitamin capsules.2 

Limit sodium, caffeine, and alcohol as they decrease calcium absorption and lead to bone loss.

Picture by Dana from Pexels

Quick Tips

  • Complete a home risk assessment
  • Carry a cell phone with you
  • Keep a phone on the floor if you are doing floor exercises
  • Get a hearing aid
  • Use a cane or walker
  • Purchase a medical alert system, some detect falls
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Exercise
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers in a visible place
  • Use railings in the shower
  • Remove clutter
  • Watch out for pets
  • Use a step ladder or reaching tool when trying to reach high objects
  • Ask for help
  • Know what to do if you fall
  • Speak with your doctor about your fear or risk of falling

First Picture by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Resources:

National Council on Aging

The NCOA has free resources on fall prevention tips for older adults, videos on how to prevent falls, a list of fall prevention programs, and will host a Fall Prevention Facebook Live event in English on September 23rd and En espanol on September 24th.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – STEADI

The CDC’s STEADI initiative includes information on ways to prevent falls and more.

National Osteoporosis Foundation

NOF has a list of food for bone health.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Keep on Your Feet – Preventing Older Adult Falls. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/older-adult-falls/index.html#:~:text=Every%20second%20of%20every%20day,particularly%20among%20the%20aging%20population.

National Osteoporosis Foundation. (2020). Food and Your Bones – Osteoporosis Nutrition Guidelines. Retrieved from https://www.nof.org/patients/treatment/nutrition/.

Staying Active as You Age

As we age, our body goes through various changes. You may gain and retain weight more easily. Your bones may become brittle because of hormonal changes causing diseases like osteoporosis. You may develop osteoarthritis or even find that your joints are stiffer because of a lack of movement.

Exercise and physical activity are the keys to staying fit, mobile, and independent as you age. The recommended amount of exercise/physical activity per week is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.1  With moderate activity, you are able to speak when in movement; however, with vigorous activity, which is an option for 75 minutes per week, you need to “catch your breath” before you speak. One hundred- and fifty-minutes sounds like a lot, but you can easily break it down to exercising 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Thirty minutes can also be broken down to three 10-minute intervals throughout the day.

Image from CDC

Physical Activity vs. Exercise

The difference is simple. Physical activity is anything the involves body movement. This can include going for a walk, gardening, light cleaning, walking to the mailbox, or even walking down the stairs to get something. Exercise on the other hand involves strategic movement with a purpose. There’s a goal that one is trying to accomplish for a specific number of minutes, miles, repetitions, sets, etc.  

All exercise is a form of physical activity, but not all physical activity is exercise.

Ways to Incorporate Physical Activity

Four Types of Exercise

Exercise can be broken into four different groups, Endurance, Strength Training, Balance, and Flexibility.  Each type of exercise serves a specific purpose, and it is important to corporate a variety of each throughout the week.

Endurance (Aerobics)

Endurance exercise gets your heart rate up and your blood circulating, improving the health of your heart and lungs.2

Strength Training

Strength training builds and tones muscle, strengthens bones, aids in fall prevention and mobility. Exercises from this group may also prevent diabetes and help those with diabetes manage their condition.  

Balance

Balance exercise aid in fall prevention and strengthens your core.

Flexibility (Stretching)

Flexibility exercises can prevent injuries, help you recover quicker if you are injured, and aids in agility.

Incorporating different types of exercise can help you stay active and independent as you age, and help to prevent and manage chronic diseases. Remember, speak with your healthcare team before starting an exercise regime, stretch before and after exercising, and go at your own pace.

First Picture by FFWPU from Pexels

Resources:

Go4Life

Go4Life is an exercise and physical activity program developed by the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Although their previous grant is over, you can still find information about ways to increase and maintain physical activity regardless of age and health conditions. For more information visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity.

MOVE!

MOVE is a weight management program developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Countless individuals have participated in the program to manage and lose weight, increase physical activity, and as a means for support. The website includes information on nutrition, exercise, mindful eating, and more. Please visit https://www.move.va.gov/.

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). How much physical activity do adults need? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm.

National Institute on Aging. (2020). Exercise and Physical Activity. Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/exercise-physical-activity.

Older Adult Mental Health During COVID-19

It’s no secret that older adults have specific mental health needs.  According to the National Council on Aging, one in four older adults experience a mental health disorder like dementia, depression, and anxiety; and that number is expected to increase to 15 million by 2030. 1 With the unexpected impact of COVID-19, it is likely the mental health of older adults may have a significant impact on current data.

When we first learned of COVID-19, we heard about the effect the disease was having on older adults. Because of the number of older adults developing and dying from the disease, and the factor that having a chronic disease increases the risk of acquiring SAR-CoV-2, older adults were told to take extra precautions and shelter in place.  There were videos of grandparents waving at their family and friends from windows, and even a viral image of a contraption a family constructed so that a grandmother could hug her grandchildren.

Isolation, financial issues, and uncertainty of the future can take a toll on one’s mental health. However, here are a few ways that you can take control of your mental health:

Teletherapy – Medicare telehealth services has expanded so that more older adults can have access to counselors.

Call someone – Simply picking up the phone to call someone may make you feel better.  

Zoom – People are using Zoom more than ever to connect with their friends, family, and co-workers. There are even people who have celebrated birthdays and baby showers on the platform. It’s simple to use once you get the hang of it.

Picture by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Go for a walk – Safely go for a walk outside. Getting some sun and exercise can give you a mental boost.

Exercise indoors – Although going to a local gym or fitness club may put you at risk for getting the coronavirus, you can safely exercise at home by doing chair exercises and using supplies in your home for strength training. Speak with your doctor about which types of exercises work best for you.

Take a break – Many of us have spent more time around people in our household like never before.  Carve out some “me time” for yourself to help keep you sane.

Set goals – Set a few short- and long-term goals that you’ve always wanted to accomplish.

Limit alcohol consumption – Alcohol may be used to mask what you’re feeling, it can also negatively affect your health if you are drinking more than recommended amounts. It’s better to get to the root of the issue by speaking to a professional.

Eat a balanced diet – Stress leads some to over-eating and others to not eat enough. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet and reach out to local food pantries and organizations like Meals on Wheels if you need help with food security.

Learn something new – It’s never too late to learn something new.

Picture by Edu from Pexels

Turn off the news – Take a break from the news and focus on something positive.

Go for a ride – Go for a drive or ask someone to take you for a ride.

Mingle RESPONSIBLY – If you can safely spend time with others, or in public spaces, do so.

Times are steadily changing, and we have entered a new norm.  Try your best to find ways to adjust and stay mentally fit.

Resources:

National Council on Aging Behavioral Health Webinars and additional information https://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health

AARP Article on teletherapy https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2020/teletherapy.html

National Crisis Text Line Mental health 741741

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services 1-800-662-4357

National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255

Source:

National Council on Aging. (n.d.). Behavioral Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncoa.org/center-for-healthy-aging/behavioral-health/.

COVID-19 & Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

little baby sucking mom’s milk

COVID-19 has shaken the foundation of the world and has left many with unanswered questions on how to navigate everyday life during a pandemic. This global crisis may have left some mothers wondering whether or not they should breastfeed, and if doing so would expose their baby to a virus we are still learning more about.

Here are the facts:

  • SARS-CoV-2, the virus that cause COVID-19, is primarily transmitted through droplets when a person sneezes, coughs, or talks.
  • A newborn can be infected with the virus if they are in close proximity with an infected person.
  • Limited data suggests that breast milk may not transmit the virus; however, more research is needed.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends nursing mothers with COVID-19 to wear a mask while breastfeeding and wash their hands at least 20 seconds between feedings.
  • Mothers should not share breast pumps and should wear a mask and wash their hands for at least 20 seconds before handling supplies.
  • Plastic face shields and masks for newborns are not recommended.
  • Breast milk has been shown to provide a baby with antibodies to fight against viruses, but more research is needed to see if the same is true for SARS-CoV-2.
  • Mothers with influenza have been able to safely breastfeed.
  • Again, as we learn more about this virus, we will have a better understanding of its effects and its impact on breastfeeding.

Make sure you speak with your doctor about any concerns you may have.

Photo Credit: Diller from Freepik

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). If You Are Pregnant, Breastfeeding, of Caring for Young Children. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020). Breastfeeding During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/COVID-19/Pages/Breastfeeding-During-COVID-19.aspx

World Health Organization. (2020). Breastfeeding and COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/breastfeeding-and-covid-19

The American College of Obstetricians and Pediatrics. (2020). Coronavirus (COVID-19), Pregnancy, and Breastfeeding: A Message for Patients. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/patient-resources/faqs/pregnancy/coronavirus-pregnancy-and-breastfeeding#What%20is%20COVID19

Kids Health. (2020). Is It Safe to Breastfeed if I have Coronavirus (COVID-19)? Retrieved from https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/coronavirus-breastfeeding.html

Bottle Feeding: It’s Your Choice

After a traumatic delivery, a nurse hands you your beautiful baby girl. It’s time for her first feeding.  You try to get her to latch, but she absolutely refuses to. You try again and again, but after several attempts, you become frustrated and weepy. You make the decision to formula feed instead.

There are mothers who can relate to the story above. They’ve tried breastfeeding their baby but were unable to get the baby to latch. There are other mothers who can breastfeed but discontinue before the recommended 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. Other mothers are unable to breastfeed because of lactation failure (inadequate or absence of milk flow), a medical issue, or simply by choice.

The benefits of breastfeeding is what drives health professionals to push “breast is best,” but doing so may guilt mothers who are not breastfeeding. Bottle/formula feeding shame is just as bad as the shaming that breastfeeding mothers experience while breastfeeding in public or at work.

Although antibodies found in breast milk are not in formula, formula can provide a baby with nutrients (protein, fat, and vitamins) necessary for their development.  Formula feeding may also work best for families because it is convenient, may require less feedings, and mothers who formula feed don’t have to worry about the effects of what they are consuming in regard to their baby’s nutrition.

Contrary to popular opinion, breastfeeding is not a sign of fidelity nor does it identify you as a mother. 1  Weigh the pros and cons and figure out what works best for you and your baby. There is no shame in bottle/formula feeding.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Source:

La Leche League. (2018). How Often Does Breastfeeding Really Fail? Retrieved from https://www.llli.org/how-often-does-breastfeeding-really-fail/#:~:text=In%20my%20practice%20as%20an,that%20only%20one%20in%20a

Breastfeeding Benefits for Mama and Baby

After working, and speaking, with mothers over the years, I have learned that some mothers do not know about the benefits of breastfeeding. Yes, many can recall that breastfeeding is the “best source of nutrition for babies,” but there are other health benefits for both mothers and babies.

As a volunteer turned intern at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington, and during my graduate studies, I gained insight into the importance of breastfeeding and its short- and long-term effects for both populations.

Benefits for Mama

Creates a Bond

Photo by: Jonathan Borba from Pexels

Prolactin and Oxytocin are two hormones released during breastfeeding. The release of these hormones may make it easier for a mother to bond with her baby.

Reduces Postpartum Bleeding

 A release of oxytocin can help the uterus return to size and reduce postpartum bleeding

Delays Menstrual Cycle

Exclusive breastfeeding increases the amount of prolactin in the body preventing ovulation. Breastfeeding may work as a method of birth control (Lactation Amenorrhea Method).

Lowers the Risk of Chronic Disease

Photo by: Stevepb from Pixabay

Breastfeeding may lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer by reducing long-term exposure to estrogen.  It may also lower a mother’s risk from developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension.

Saves Money

On average, families spend $1,500 on formula. The cost of breast milk is free, but some families pay for supplies (nursing bras, breast pump, lactation consultant, nipple cream, etc.).

Benefits for Baby

Protects Baby’s Immune System

Image from MamaNatural.com

When a mother is exposed to germs in the environment, her body produces antibodies that can protect her baby’s immune system. The baby receives these antibodies through breast milk.

Colostrum, the first type of breast milk the body produces, coats the stomach lining and acts as a line of defense against bacteria. It also provides a baby with vitamins and protein.

Reduces Ear Infections, Colds, and Respiratory Illnesses

Antibodies produced in breast milk can reduce the rate of ear infections, colds, and respiratory illnesses.

Photo by: Laura Garcia from Pexels

Lowers the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Breastfeeding a baby for at least two months, regardless of exclusive breastfeeding, decreases the risk of SIDS.

Lower Risk of Developing Asthma, Eczema, and Allergies

One of the long-term effects of breastfeeding is that it reduces the chances that a child will develop allergies, asthma, or eczema.

There are even more benefits of breastfeeding that are not captured in this post.  Mothers and babies are both impacted by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has short- and long-term health benefits for both populations.

While there are benefits to breastfeeding, it is important to acknowledge that not all mothers choose, or are able, to breastfeed. Every family is different, and this post is by no means written to “push” breastfeeding as the only choice, but to provide education. Being unable, or choosing not, to breastfeed does not make anyone any less of a mother.

First photo by Dalila Delprat from Pexels

Sources:

Healthy Children. (2016). Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx#:~:text=Breastfeeding%20provides%20health%20benefits%20for,and%20can%20reduce%20postpartum%20bleeding.

Cleveland Clinic. (2018). The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom and Baby. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby–for-mom

Office of Women’s Health. (2019). Making the decision to breastfeed. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed

American Pregnancy Association. (2019). Benefits of Breastfeeding. Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/breastfeeding/benefits-of-breastfeeding/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Breastfeeding for Cancer Prevention. Retrieved from https://blogs.cdc.gov/cancer/2019/08/01/breastfeeding-for-cancer-prevention/

National Institutes of Health. (2015). Breastfeeding may help prevent type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/breastfeeding-may-help-prevent-type-2-diabetes-after-gestational-diabetes#:~:text=Breastfeeding%20for%20longer%20than%202,account%20for%20these%20risk%20differences.

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Study: Breastfeeding for at least 2 months decreases risk of SIDS. Retrieved from https://www.aappublications.org/news/2017/10/30/BreastfeedingSIDS103017

Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Ear Infection (Otitis Media): Prevention. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8613-ear-infection-otitis-media/prevention