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Katie Hinde is studying breast milk’s status as the first superfood, providing babies with invaluable microbes custom-tailored to their individual needs, via an incredible and unlikely dialogue between the mother’s enzymes and the baby’s saliva.  And in studying the marvels of human breast milk she strongly advocates for a society and health care system that will support the breastfeeding goals of all women.

Katie Hinde Associate Professor, Director of the Comparative Lactation Lab in the Center for Evolution and Medicine and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. Click the link below to view her TED Talk.

https://www.ted.com/talks/katie_hinde_what_we_don_t_know_about_mother_s_milk

Maybe her March Mammal Madness can be your inspiration for your next World Breastfeeding Week event!  http://mammalssuck.blogspot.com/

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Lactoferrin is one of the miraculous substances found in breastmilk which helps the infant kill bacteria and fight infection.  It is the major whey protein in human milk and has its highest concentrations in colostrum.  While it is important for all infants, it is especially important in the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in preterm infants.   Lactoferrin has an anti-inflammatory action that may mitigate the pro-inflammatory states present in the gut before the onset of NEC.  This highlights the importance of mothers providing early feedings of colostrum and fresh mature milk to prevent necrotizing enterocolitis in their premature infant.

Researchers are experimenting with recombinant lactoferrin use in preterm infants and showing a benefit in reducing NEC.  In recombinant DNA, molecules of DNA are recombined into sequences that would not otherwise be found in the genome.   Recombining DNA is possible because DNA molecules from all organisms share the same chemical structure. They differ only in the nucleotides, the subunits of DNA and RNA, in the gene sequence.

Lactoferrin is present in cow’s milk in lower levels than found in human milk.  And the process of creating formula lowers those levels even further.  So, exogenous sources of lactoferrin must be added to formula if it is to match human levels.  Recombinant human lactoferrin can now be obtained from yeast, transgenic cows, and rice which have structural similarity to endogenous lactoferrin. 

There is already an infant formula manufacturer which is marketing Enspire™ containing lactoferrin in the range found in mature breastmilk.  This formula uses bovine sourced lactoferrin and is being marketed for use in any baby, not necessarily NICU infants.

Why are research dollars being spent on developing a protein that mothers can provide to their own infants?  Why don’t we spend the research dollars refining our techniques on how to best help mothers of premature infants provide their own lactoferrin, provide the best breast pumps, a place to pump, “rooming in” in the NICU and facilitate lots of skin-to-skin holding? In addition, when the mother is supplying her own lactoferrin, she is also colonizing the newborn's GI tract with beneficial bacteria and lowering stress levels in both herself and her infant. 

Liao Y, Jiang R, Lönnerdal B.  Biochemical and molecular impacts of lactoferrin on small intestinal growth and development during early life. Biochem Cell Biol 2012   90: 476–484.

Lönnerdal B, Jiang R, Du X  Bovine lactoferrin can be taken up by the human intestinal lactoferrin receptor and exert bioactivities. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2011 53: 606–614.

Satué-Gracia MT, Frankel E, Rangavajhyala N , German JB.  Lactoferrin in Infant Formulas:  Effect on Oxidation.  J. Agric. Food Chem., 2000, 48:10:4984–4990

Sherman MP, Adamkin DH, Niklas V, Radmacher P, Sherman J, Wertheimer F, Petrak K Randomized Controlled Trial of Talactoferrin Oral Solution in Preterm Infants.  J Pediatr. 2016 Aug; 175:68-73.e3

Sherman MP, Sherman J, Arcinue R, Niklas V.  Randomized Control Trial of Human Recombinant Lactoferrin: A Substudy Reveals Effects on the Fecal Microbiome of Very Low Birth Weight Infants.  J Pediatr. 2016 Jun;173 Suppl:S37-42.

Sherman MP, Pritzl CJ, Xia C, Miller MM, Zaghouani H, Hahm B.  Lactoferrin acts as an adjuvant during influenza vaccination of neonatal mice.  Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2015 Nov 27;467(4):766-70.

Sherman MP, Miller MM, Sherman J, Niklas V.  Lactoferrin and necrotizing enterocolitis.   Curr Opin Pediatr. 2014 Apr;26(2):146-50.

Sherman MP.  Lactoferrin and necrotizing enterocolitis.  Clin Perinatol. 2013 Mar;40(1):79-91.

Sherman MP, Petrak K. .  Lactoferrin-enhanced anoikis: a defense against neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis.  Med Hypotheses. 2005;65(3):478-82.

Sherman MP, Bennett SH, Hwang FF, Yu C.  Neonatal small bowel epithelia: enhancing anti-bacterial defense with lactoferrin and Lactobacillus GG.  Biometals. 2004 Jun;17(3):285-9.b, c

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We have taken, as gospel, the guideline of weight loss of greater than 5-7% (7-10% in many circles) as dangerous for newborns and requires supplementation – for years.  Is this an arbitrary line in the sand, or serious research?


What do you mean that the research upon which this guideline is based might be flawed?  That data was incompletely gathered, sample sizes were too small, formula supplemented infants were not excluded or the supplementation was not recorded.  Was the weight loss effect of maternal IV fluids during labor considered?  The recent article in the Journal of Human Lactation Weighing the Facts: A Systematic Review of Expected Patterns of Weight Loss in Full Term Breastfed Infants questions the foundation of these guidelines.  And this is not the first time the data supporting the weight loss guidelines has been challenged.  Noel-Weiss did so in 2008.


The consequences of over-diagnosing excessive weight loss are many.  The mother’s own breastmilk could be expressed and used as a supplement but often that is not considered, and the handy bottle of formula is offered.  Volumes are often excessive.  That formula bottle contains virtually unlimited amounts of supplement, compared to the volumes the baby would be consuming at the breast, if breastfeeding was going well. 

 
Then there is the disruption to the gut flora.  And the sensitization to cow’s milk through the porous newborn gut wall.  Even one bottle can make a difference.


The possible physical sequela are a concern, but the most serious problem with incorrectly identifying an infant as losing too much weight is the damage done to the mother’s breastfeeding intention.  “Well, from the start, I didn’t get this right”.  So, what does it matter if I offer a bottle when the baby cries and I am tired, or I when I go for my OB check-up, and then one when my home is full of guests and I might be embarrassed, and then when I go out for a while with friends, and then, and then….  It starts a slippery slope.   When a mother hears that her baby is losing too much weight she not only questions the adequacy of her breastmilk but of her mothering capacity.   

So, who will do the research, the right way, and get reliable guidelines?  We then can prevent the serious complications of hypernatremic dehydration in a few infants and preserve the breastfeeding relationship during the dip in weight before the mother’s milk comes in, in many infants.  Research methods have improved, more researchers are looking at these issues and we owe it to our breastfeeding babies and mothers to get this right.

Thulier D.  Weighing the Facts: A Systematic Review of Expected Patterns of Weight Loss in Full-Term, Breastfed Infants.  J Hum Lact. 2016 Feb;32(1):28-34.

Noel-Weiss J, Courant G, Woodend AK. Physiological weight loss in the breastfed neonate: a systematic review.  Open Med. 2008;2(4):e99-e110.

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