Overweight Moms Need Support to Prevent Breastfeeding Problems

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Apr 26 2010 - 10:09am

By now, everyone is very familiar with the recommendation from pediatricians and other health experts that breastfeeding during the first year of life is best for both mother and baby in terms of nutritional quality and prevention of long-term chronic diseases. Some women have more difficulty than others with problems with breastfeeding, including those who are overweight, obese, or have very large breasts.

A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) survey found that simply understanding the benefits of breastfeeding was not enough to initiate the practice in some moms. The most important factor to successful breastfeeding was having support from both professionals and from family and friends.

"Ensuring that new mums get the support they need to cope with the often difficult task of breastfeeding is essential to boosting breastfeeding rates and increasing the length of time women breastfeed,” said Joy Parkinson, PhD candidate and lead study author.

Here in the US, two presentations will be given at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting in Anaheim CA this week as part of the scientific program of the American Society for Nutrition. Scientists from the University of Connecticut, Hartford’s Hispanic Health Council, the Hartford Hospital, and Yale University will speak about their findings that peer counseling and support can substantially improve breastfeeding success among high-risk women, including those who are obese.

Breast size does not affect milk production, which is a function of the glandular tissue inside the breast as well as the baby's appetite and suckling ability. However, women with large breasts, DD or above, may find difficulty in comfortable positions and techniques which cause a less successful breastfeeding experience if not given resources to help prevent problems.

Dr. Donna Chapman, Assistant Director of the Center for Eliminating Health Disparities among Latinos (CEHDL) and colleagues studied 154 women recruited during pregnancy who were overweight or obese (BMI greater than 27) and hoping to successfully breastfeed. Seventy-six comprised the “intervention” group, which received home visits during late pregnancy and in the first few months after birth where they were offered help for breastfeeding problems and provided breast pumps to those who needed them.

In the control group, those who received educational material but no long-term support, 46% of women had stopped breastfeeding by 8 weeks postpartum. Of those who received intensive counseling, only 33% stopped. In addition, the babies of the mothers who received extra counseling were 3.5 times less likely to be hospitalized during their first 3 months of life related to conditions such as respiratory infections and fever.

Among the many other reasons for encouraging obese women to breastfeed, researchers from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California found that mothers who breastfeed their children longer are significantly less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of heart disease and diabetes risk factors more common in obese people.

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For women with large breasts who wish to breastfeed, Anne Smith, BA, IBCLC offers the following advice:

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Comments

Interesting article. Certainly intervention and breastfeeding support is effective in helping women in all catagories have a more pleasant and successful breastfeeding experience. Large breasts are not only found on obese women, of course. And the advice given does have some outdated information. Lactiferous sinuses have been shown not to exist and the idea that large breasts have large nipples is a wrong assumption. The large flange size of the breast pump is for a large (in circumference) nipple which is not correlated with breast size, in many cases.

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