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University of Albany

Study: Babies Fed Solid Foods While Breastfeeding Stand and Walk Faster Than Strictly Breastfed Babies

Babies who were breastfeeding and fed solid foods rather than exclusively breastfed stand and walk faster than slightly faster times to standing and walking in full-term infants compared to infants exclusively breast fed, according to a new study.

Breastfeeding has long been known to provide health benefits to babies, including improved immune strength, lowered risk for asthma and allergies and more. A new study out of the University at Albany, however, found that it has no notable impact on motor development.

In the study  of 4,270 babies organized by feeding category (Breastfed exclusively (control group), Both breast and formula and Formula fed exclusively), the study found that breast milk provides nutrition and energy to babies in addition to providing hormones, growth factors, antibodies and long-chain fatty acids that aid in growth and development.

While these benefits are undisputed among experts, questions have remained as to what impact, if any, breast milk has on a children’s muscular development and their subsequent ability to hit milestones such as standing or walking.

Researchers Erin Bell, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences in the School of Public Health, collaborated with University of Albany graduate and pediatrician Scott Bello as well as Kara Michels, Akhgar Ghassabian, Sunni Mumford, Rajeshwari Sundaram and Edwina Yeung  as part of a larger Upstate KIDS Study,  of over  6,000 babies born to 5,000 mothers between 2008 and 2010 in the 57 counties of upstate New York.

The team had a particular interest in determining whether or not breastfeeding provided any motor-development advantages to pre-term babies, and because twins are often born pre-term, they also focused on twin infants.

“Although breastfeeding does not notably speed along motor development, it’s important to note that it doesn’t slow it down either, and mothers who are able to breastfeed should still consider it because of the non-motor development benefits,” Bell said. “Additionally, more research is warranted on the subject of feeding patterns and motor-development milestones, particularly in pre-term infants” said Bell.

The full paper can be found here.

Study: Cultural Mimicing Impacts Unmarried, Lesser Educated Women’s Breastfeed Rates

Unmarried women and those who never  completed high school are more likely to breastfeed their children if they receive in-home welfare visits from a person with shared cultural background.

A team of University of Albany researches conducted a study on over 3,500 at risk women who participate in in Healthy Families New York (HFNY), a state-wide home visiting program.

The data found that the number of times a home visitor (also known as a family support worker) addresses the subject of breastfeeding during a home visit directly correlates with the likelihood that mothers will attempt, or re-attempt, to breastfeed.

“It’s a simple message: If you talk about it, [mothers] will try to initiate breastfeeding,” said Eunju Lee, assistant professor in the School of Social Welfare.

But it was more than that.

If the mean number of visits addressing breastfeeding increases by 10 percent, the mother’s likelihood of breastfeeding increases by 15 percent, said Sandra McGinnis, senior research scientist at the school’s Center for Human Services Resources (CHSR).

“I think it’s compelling to know that the behavior of the home visitor, in terms of initiating these discussions, does make a difference for this group,” McGinnis said. “Some of their issues are rather intractable, so seeing any positive outcomes with such a vulnerable population is noteworthy.”

Home visitors discussing breastfeeding lead to increased in more new moms nursing independent of ethnicity, education, income and other factors that would generally predict breastfeeding outcomes.

“Even though [breastfeeding] is a mother’s instinctual behavior, there are huge disparities due to race, age and most likely social class,” McGinnis said. “It’s a tremendously difficult task to encourage [at-risk mothers] to breastfeed, but sending the right message does help improve these statistics.”

During the prenatal period, FSWs made biweekly visits, increasing to weekly visits following a child’s birth and until the child was six months old, according to the findings. This kind of support is often lacking in at-risk households, which helps to explain the behavioral divide between breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers.

And it’s not enough to simply talk about breastfeeding. Tailoring a conversation to individual needs is key, Lee said.

“This is a concept that HFNY likes to call a ‘cultural broker,’ but in the same way, [home visitors] are health brokers; they are helping mothers digest important messages,” she said. “They are saying, ‘What are your worries?’”

To facilitate understanding and to minimize judgment, HFNY home visitors ideally come from the same cultural background and geographic area as the community they serve, McGinnis said, adding, “It’s not just pushing [mothers] to breastfeed, but a good home visitor will help them with problem solving.”

Lee stated that the study had a broader objective to not only to analyze data, but to make real improvements in how the HFNY program and programs like it are implemented.

“We are not only interested in generating knowledge,” she said. “What it’s really about, especially with social service research, is how are we going to improve people’s lives?”

The study’s results could impact other aspects of early childhood development. Improving breastfeeding rates among at-risk mothers can be a stepping stone to tackling other important health topics such as vaccinations, infant mortality rate and safe sleep, McGinnis said.

“This particular message is about breastfeeding, but I think the implication here is that home visiting programs are one mechanism by which disadvantaged families can be reached with public health messages,” she said.


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