Stories about: Breastfeeding

Down syndrome: Reimagining what’s possible

Ella kisses baby Juila on the cheek.
Photo credit: Nicole Starr

I first met Ella Gray Cullen in the Advanced Fetal Care Center (AFCC) of Boston Children’s Hospital, shortly after she had received a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. Like many parents expecting babies with conditions that can be diagnosed prenatally, she wanted to know more.

We talked about the additional medical screenings that would be recommended for her daughter to evaluate for cardiac defects and other conditions that are more common in children with Down syndrome. We discussed the developmental supports through Early Intervention and school that would be available to help her daughter learn and develop to her best ability. And, we talked about breastfeeding.

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Online breast milk sales: There’s no such thing as a (bacteria)-free lunch

By Larry Rhein, MD, Division of Newborn Medicine, Boston Children’s Hospital

All pediatricians can agree that breast milk is the best food for infants. But sometimes, parents are unable to provide breast milk on their own. To fill this void, a new secondary market has developed where mothers who can produce additional breast milk do so and sell it online.

But selling breast milk for feeding infants is different than selling used baby clothes or toys; food has to meet minimum safety standards.

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Can breastfeeding for longer make a child smarter?

There are many scientific studies showing that breastfeeding offers health benefits to infants. Many of these reports focus on tangible benefits, like breast milk’s ability to help babies ward off allergies or reduce their risk of developing gastrointestinal issues. But quality research demonstrating how breastfeeding can affect an infant’s brain has been far more difficult to produce. Previous studies on the topic have made connections, but they didn’t account for many other factors that influence a child’s development, like his mother’s intelligence, socioeconomic status, home environment during key developmental milestones or if he was raised with homecare vs. daycare.

In addition, many of these studies focused only on whether baby was “ever breastfed” or “never breastfed.” By ignoring an entire population of children raised on both breast milk and formula—or researching how much time they spent receiving either— these studies fail to truly define the potential role breastfeeding plays in a child’s future cognitive development.

To better explore the issue, researchers from Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Newborn Medicine recently conducted a study on the possible ways breast milk and intelligence are related, while accounting for several of the factors ignored in other studies. In doing so, the team has produced the most complete analysis of the subject to date.

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Confession: this pediatrician is a sleep softie

This may not be a great confession to make as a pediatrician, but when it comes to sleep and kids, I am a total softie.

Our kids slept in our bed. We slept in theirs (which was very cramped in the toddler bed, and didn’t do great things to the frame)—or lay next to them as they drifted off to sleep. We sat on the floor, telling stories and singing lullabies and slowly edging out of the bedroom as their breathing got deep and regular. We went in again and again to retrieve the stuffed animal from under the bed or to investigate the scary noise or possible spider. When they woke in the middle of the night, we held them until they went back to sleep—sometimes night after night.

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