Breast Milk and Your Baby’s Immune System

We know breast milk is best for our babies, but how exact does it help and protect their immune systems? What immune disorders are specifically impacted by our infant's nutrition? And what makes breast milk so powerful that some cultures consider it “white blood”? Today we're learning why mother's milk is widely known as the perfect food for your baby.

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  • Breastfeeding Headlines

    What are the top news headlines involving breastfeeding, pumping and parenting? We’ll comb through all the articles and discuss the main issues impacting mothers around the world.

  • Overcoming Societal Booby Traps

    We want you to have a positive breastfeeding experience… without feeling “booby trapped” by the cultural, institutional and legal barriers that prevent us from making informed decisions? How can we change the overall perception of breastfeeding within our society?

Episode Transcript

The Boob Group
Breast Milk and Your Baby's Immune System

LEILANI WILDE: Many moms choose to feed their babies breast milk or formula based on advice from friends or family or recommendations from doctors. We know breast milk is best for our babies but do we know why? Can what we feed them really make a difference on our baby’s health? Today we’re exploring how breast milk can boost your baby’s immune system. This is The Boob Group.

[Theme Music]

LEILANI WILDE: Welcome to The Boob Group broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. The Boob Group is your weekly online, on-the-go support group for all things related to breastfeeding. I’m your host, Leilani Wilde. I’m also an IBCLC and owner of Leilani’s Lactation and Doula Services. Thanks for tuning in today and being a loyal listener of The Boob Group. Don’t forget to visit our website at and subscribe to our newsletter for updates on new episodes. You can stay connected by downloading our free apps available on android, iTunes and window devices. Here’s Sunny with more information on how you can become part of the Boob Group.

SUNNY GAULT: Yes. We’d love for you guys to get involved with our show. We’d love hearing from our listeners. There’s a couple of different segments you guys can participate in. the easiest thing is actually to go to our website at and go to The Boob Group portion of that website and you can click on segments and see all the different segments you could sniff for but there’s a couple of segments that I’ll highlight here. We’d love to hear from you guys and know what you think about our show. If there was an episode that you really liked or you’d like more information on. We just like to hear from you. So any comments that you have like that, send them our way. We’ll include some of those on the show. Also we have a fun segment called “Boob Oops” segment which is where you guys can share your funny breastfeeding and pumping stories- funny things that happen between you and your baby. We’ve all had them, right? So let’s go ahead and share them and just kind of get a nice laugh with that one. Mama Hacks is a segment that we do where we share our different hacks that we discovered as breastfeeding and pumping moms. Perhaps it is a trick that you do when you’re pumping, or maybe you discovered something with breastfeeding that can help other mamas out there. We’d love for you to submit for those different segments. You can go to our website and go to the contact link if you just want to send us an email. But if you would like to share the story- your story yourself, you can basically leave us a voicemail. Call 619-8664775 and we’ll include your response on a future episode.

LEILANI WILDE: So today in our studio and on Skype we will be introducing our panelist and expert. Our panelist today is-

ALICIA GONZALEZ: Hi. I’m Alicia. I’m a full-time mom for two girls and two boys, ages ten, eight, six, and three.


ALICIA GONZALEZ; And all of them were breastfed.

LEILANI WILDE: Excellent. And our expert today is-

Maureen minchin: Hello. I’m Maureen Minchin. I helped create the International Lactation Consultant Provision, although I’m no longer in IBCLC because I’ve gone into teaching and educating health professionals’ far more than actual practice at the moment.

Sunny gault: Yes, and Maureen is joining us from Australia, which is super cool. It’s not everyday that we talk with someone from Australia. So welcome to the show Maureen.

Maureen minchin: Thank you.

[Theme Music]

sunny gault: Before we get into the heart and soul of our show today, we are going to talk about a funny thing that I saw online. This is a news headline and it says: “Breaxting – texting while breastfeeding”. The newest feeding trends pros and cons. I love it when they kind of mash-up words. It’s kind of funny to me. And so, texting while breastfeeding. This is from- a psychologist basically coined this phrase. What they’re saying is that if you’re breastfeeding while holding your smartphone next to your baby that is what breaxting is. They’re saying that it’s not necessarily a good thing because you can be missing out on some—during important cues from your baby; that they’re full, still hungry, the latch isn’t working—all of the different issues that we can have while breastfeeding. They’re also concerned that it’s really impacting or affecting negatively the time that you have with your baby. I know a lot of moms—I’m actually not a breaxter but I wanted to become a breaxter. Maybe after reading this article I was kind of like “maybe I don’t?” because we like to multitask right? And breastfeeding is one of those things where you’re sitting with your baby, whatever and it takes some discipline to just really be in the moment. It’s so easy for us to grab our smartphones and just start going through and checking our Facebook and statuses and all that crazy stuff, or texting other people. I can totally see where they’re going with this and it is really important. Even for—you know they say don’t have your kids all consumed up in technology and the screen time and all that stuff. You think about it, you’re the one that’s really doing the screen time. But at the same time, it’s so close to your baby’s face and the light. You know what I mean? All that kind of stuff. So I wanted to throw this out there. Alicia, breaxting—are you a breaxter?


Sunny gault: You are a breaxter. You are a self-confessed breaxter.

ALICIA GONZALEZ; Yes, but I will say I never had my phone on me when I was doing everything else with the baby. Once I had the baby nursing and kind of in the groove, I grab my phone and start getting caught up on all the things I have missed for the last two hours that I wasn’t nursing.

SUNNY GAULT: Right? Feels like we’re always nursing. What do you think Leilani? What do you think about this article?

LEILANI WILDE: Well I think, you know, they do bring out an important fact which is about connecting with your baby because that’s a special time for moms and babies. It’s the only time they don’t have to share—that time with that baby in other situations. If they were giving the baby a bottle, anyone can do that. But no one can breastfeed your baby for you. So I can understand their point that maybe recognizing that this time in their life is such a short time that they should try to remember that and focus on their baby. Maybe do it when the baby is sleeping- texting when the baby is sleeping.

SUNNY GAULT: That’s true. Maureen, what do you think of this article and the idea of breaxting?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Well I think it’s interesting that nobody has mentioned the physical radiation that’s involved in having phones close to babies. There are some concerns about the kind of exposure that phones and their high power can actually have on our heads, apart from anything else. And many people now use headphones in order to distance themselves from their phones so I don’t know.
I would have thought that there were good reasons physically to actually avoid doing too much of this if it involves the phone being too close to a very young baby. They’ll be soon exposed to all of these things in their own right and I think starting when they are younger is still—at the breast isn’t a great idea. On the other hand, I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with a mom putting her feet up, watching the telly or doing something else while feeding. Some of the time, yes, you do want to make sure you remember those special moments and things, but a lot of feeding can be pretty repetitive and there’s no harm in occasionally just not worrying too much about the intensity of the relationship or anything like that. Just getting on with living and relaxing yourself. So I’m a bit of a –I might not want to see too much breaxting happening but it might be for different reasons and perhaps the authors.

SUNNY GAULT: Yes. You know how that’s a good point. The person that came up with this—the phrase breaxting—is a psychologist so maybe that’s the reason this article is slanted because from a psychologist’s standpoint, he’s thinking about the relationship and that kind of stuff as opposed to the actual—like you were talking about radiation or the physical side of stuff.

MAUREEN MINCHIN:Yes. I think it’s important that moms do be in the moment with their babies. But we are also people who sometimes just want to not be in the moment.

SUNNY GAUNT: Right. That’s very true

ALICIA GONZALEZ; It is the time to allow yourself to zone out, I have to say. I’m not a TV watcher so that was never my thing and I could never coordinate it to nurse and like, read a book which is easier—

SUNNY GAUNT: It’s kind of like patting your head and rubbing your belly. I felt that way. It’s really hard to do.

ALICIA GONZALEZ; I’m really bad because that’s what I think but I remember I would kind of lay the phone in the crook of the baby’s hip, have a little recliner for it. It wasn’t on the other hand but it’s on the baby’s hip.

SUNNY GAUNT: Right, right. We do what we got to do.

LEILANI WILDE: Multitasking. It is what we do.

SUNNY GAUNT: Alright. We’ll put this link up in Facebook and you guys can check it out.

[Theme music]

LEILANI WILDE: So today on The Boob Group, we’re discussing how breast milk boosts your baby’s immune system. Our expert Maureen Minchin, IBCLC and author of the book called Milk Matters, which is about infant feeding and immune disorders. She lives and practices in Australia and she’s joining us via Skype. Thank you for joining us Maureen.

MAUREEN MINCHIN:Thanks for having me.

LEILANI WILDE: Maureen, what protective properties does breast milk have that formula doesn’t?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Oh, there are so many. The book I’ve written is 840 pages and lots of them deal with it. It’s a case of –breast milk is not just a bunch of nutrients. It’s actually a living fluid. It is something that is designed to create the right balance of microbes in the gut to immunize the baby and to pass on much of these immune factors that the mother has accumulated in her life to help repair any damage that’s happened and to help create patterns of development. For that reason, it’s got so many different sort of things that can’t possible be in an infant formula—hormones and enzymes and stem cells. Stem cells for instance have only recently been discovered and we’re thinking that they may be really quite critical in the ways that babies can develop. We know they can migrate away from the gut to other areas; and perhaps they help to repair any damage that occurred during the pregnancy. They’re just beginning to investigate so many of those possibilities. It samples the whole environment that the mother is in. Everything that she breathes, and touches, and eats is sampled and presented to the baby in manageable doses along with all the factors that are needed to help the baby adjust to those things and develop tolerance of the particular environment that it’s in. There simply is no way that anybody can create a living liquid. It was called “white blood” in many cultures and that’s exactly what it is. To consider—to compare it with infant formula is like comparing maybe ketchup with blood. Blood is a living tissue full of all sorts of things absolutely essential for normal development. Tomato ketchup might look like it but basically doesn’t do the same jobs.

LEILANI WILDE: And the immune disorders, how do they play a part in our infant’s nutrition?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: We feed the bacteria in our guts and from birth, we want to establish within the gut a healthy community of bacteria that break down our foods and that feed us because we can’t absorb much of what’s in our foods before the bacteria actually do that process of breaking down. If you have the wrong bacteria in your gut, you get all sorts of digestive problems and you can get also nutritional problems, behavioral problems even as well because the wrong bacteria can create toxic by-products that actually affect how the baby develops, not just physically but also behaviourally, cognitively. There are sorts of ways. Even temperamentally.They are now looking at whether or not the cortisol that’s produced in the gut has an influence on temperament development on children. So there’s a range of things. The serotonin—that’s the happy hormone—is created in the gut. If you’ve got the wrong bacteria, you don’t get the right balance of serotonin in the body. There are so many different ways in which the gut itself has to be created after birth by communicating with the bacteria that are put into that gut. The mother’s microbiome, that’s the collection of all the microbes—I’ll call them “bugs” from here on because it’s easier than trying to say bacteria or viruses and everything else under the sun. The bugs that the mother passes on, there’s something like 700 different species have been measured in breast milk. They are the ones that are actually good for the baby and they communicate with the naïve infant gut and create the structures in the gut that will enable them to colonize and to persist there so they can do their job of breaking down foods and producing all of these by-products that actually are helpful and continue the growth of the baby.

When you put formula into the gut, it’s not just simply that formula doesn’t do what breast milk does, it does other things. It provides a different environment for different bacteria and those bacteria, those bugs are all descriptions, can actually be—can create a microbiome that makes the child much more likely, not only to have infections and to have physical problems like allergy and the rest of it. But also, it can actually have an effect on developing temperament and behaviour and cognition and all of those things. There are some studies that have been done that show that the digestive by-products of formula in a laboratory are toxic to human gut cells. So it’s not just what’s in the formula, it’s what happens to the formula in the gut and how that in the end affects the baby. Now human milk, no matter how bad the mother’s diet—and many mothers do have bad diet. We just have to accept that that’s going to be a reality. Human milk is always going to be better for the baby than any industrial product that has been produced using heat treatment and starting out with the base off non-human products. A mother has to be on a really seriously toxic situation before her milk is not better than formula. And need all our emphasis on good diet. Sometimes, well we do want mothers to have good diet for their own sake obviously and for the sake of their babies. All of the talk about good diet sometimes means the mothers feel “oh, it’s probably safer for me to get a formula because that would have everything the baby needs because that’s what the advertising says”. And they don’t realize just how unique and special their own milk is, how they’re transmitting their own cells, their own immune memory, their own experience of life to the baby via their breast milk, and nothing can do that other than breast milk.

LEILANI WILDE: So what about another mom’s milk introduced to the gut of the baby? Because you’re saying each mom has about 700 different bugs- is that what you’re calling it?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: That’s right.

LEILANI WILDE: So if you’re introducing another mom’s milk into the baby’s gut, how does that—does that double, does that protect the baby more?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: That actually can be a benefit because the fact of the matter is, that mother too, has sampled her environment and has produced not only the things that are appropriate for that but also—because along with the bugs go the antibodies and the other immune factors that modulate how the baby can handle those things. So if you’re using someone else’s fresh milk, you’re looking at, in fact getting other—a range of other bacteria certainly but also the antibody to those bacteria so you’re widening the immunization of the baby along the way there. And that’s why it was typical of many communities that mothers would share feeding their babies. They pass the baby across to somebody else, or if they were too busy, or they didn’t have enough milk or whatever. The business of sharing feeding a baby is actually probably as old as human beings. And while we don’t—we can’t encourage this act fully in modern society, we shouldn’t be too concerned about when it occurs. Within the friendship groups that I had, I would say that we probably all fed our friend’s babies at some point in time. We’d leave them—the mom left and did something for a short time but if we are a bit late back and the baby had been crying, we’d give them permission for those, that other mother to put the baby at the breast if that was needed to calm the baby. And that’s really quite a normal, natural thing to do. You get into more need for consideration if it’s not fresh milk, fresh from the breast of the mother but something that has been heat-treated and pasteurized. Certainly still, as long as there’s been care in looking after it, that’s going to be preferable. When WHO, the World Health Organization was asked about these things, they ranked in terms of preference: there’s mother’s own fresh milk, mother’s own expressed milk, another mother’s fresh milk, another mother’s expressed milk, heat-treated milk, you go down. Infant formula comes down at about number five of the ways that you would choose to feed the baby if you had those other options.

LEILANI WILDE: Alicia, were you aware of the protection that your breast milk offered your baby?

ALICIA GONZALEZ; Not so detailed, but I have to say, Maureen, I think—you must have come to me in my sleep before I had children because everything that you just said sums up why I did—why I made sure all four of mine were breastfed and I couldn’t have ever described it the way you did. My instinct though told me that it was the right thing to do. I won’t say the right thing to do but told me that we would not make it for no reason. We make it in order to feed a baby and you have a baby inside your body for so long and then I think that just continues the development.

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Absolutely right.

LEILANI WILDE: So what about in regards to a mom that is exclusively pumping because I know that there’s a difference between a mom breastfeeding her baby where she has direct saliva contact right when the baby’s bugs so to speak are passing through the breast milk and making antibodies and giving it back to the baby. In regards to the protection for long-term health for mom and long-term health for baby, is there an advantage to a mom in a situation where she cannot or for some reason is not able to breastfeed but she needs to pump?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: If a mom has to pump, first of all, I think that should be given gold medals for perseverance because it’s not easy and they’re not getting as much positive feedback as the mother who is breastfeeding, whose baby is stimulating the release of hormones through the entire time of physical closeness. For a mother to successfully pump and express is much harder work than for a mother to breastfeed. So hats off to those mothers who are forced by circumstances to do it. But on the other hand, the value of actually having the baby at breast is there and if you can do that even for part of the time, it’s obviously preferable. Now there are very few cases but there are some, where really, exclusive pumping is all that’s possible. Those mothers are still providing their microbiome to the baby. It’s not just the skin bacteria. The bugs are actually in the milk and the milk passes over the skin when it’s being expressed. So it all will be in the milk and if the body will have made the antibodies to anything that might be harmful and will have passed on the memory cells and so on that are involved in protecting the baby via the history of the mother’s own immune system. So yes, all of the cells will be in the milk. But the fresher the milk is when it’s fed to the baby, the better. The value of breastfeeding itself shouldn’t be underrated for all sorts of reasons. The experience of feeding from skin to skin contact of your mother and the skin to skin contact with your baby, those are things that are really powerful in ways that we don’t know. They reduce stress levels in the mother. A mother who is pumping is probably a mother who is much more stressed than a mother who is actually breastfeeding. I think we should be valuing both breastfeeding and breast milk as things to be encouraged separately if need be, but preferably together.

LEILANI WILDE: So Maureen, what happens to our baby’s future health if they consume breast milk and then they too, feed their babies with their breast milk?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: If we can manage to have our babies, form birth, skin to skin and exclusively breastfeed them, we’ve got the best chance of making sure that the genes that they inherit are expressed the right way. The problem with early exposure to formula has been that, because it changes the gut microbiomes, which I talked about, it changes the expression of genes in the baby’s body as well. And we need to start changing back towards what would have been the case had we not done that. It sounds complicated. But really, it’s not. The issue we haven’t talked about is the fact that all of us, the egg that’s going to be us, begins in our grandmother’s womb, inside the woman who is going to be—the baby that’s going to grow up to be our mother. So we’re affected by the gestation of our mother, the pregnancy that our grandmother has with our mother, and we are also affected by the pregnancy during which our mother carries us. We think now that exclusive breastfeeding is going to be the way back towards the normal patterns that we had because the changes in genes aren’t permanent. The epigenetic changes that happen in the expression of genes aren’t permanent. They last for a few generations and they can be inherited and passed on. But in fact they can also simply revert back if they’re no longer being triggered in the ways that they were.

LEILANI WILDE: So when we come back, we will discuss with Maureen what we should do if our babies are experiencing colic, reflux or any other diet-related distress. We will be right back.

[Theme Music]

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[Theme Music]

LEILANI WILDE: Welcome back to the show. We’re here with Maureen Minchin and we’re learning about how breast milk can protect our baby’s immune system. Maureen, many moms struggle with colic and reflux. What is the cause of this?

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Basically, a lot of that comes from the wrong gut environment having been set up, the wrong bugs being put into babies. And when you get diagnoses like colic and reflux, you’re really just describing symptoms that are describing how the baby’s body is trying to deal with things. Reflux is a baby’s body trying to push things back up and out. Really loose, runny diarrhea type stools, the baby’s body trying to push that milk or whatever the food is out as fast as it can. Vomiting and diarrhea are things that, well they can become illnesses in their own right because they can continue to the point of being harmful. When they first start happening, there are signs that the baby’s body is saying “something’s wrong here”. And if you simply try to suppress the symptom without finding what the cause is, you are likely to do much more harm.

Most of the most common causes of gut distress in babies relate to feeding. So you go through a process of eliminating simpler causes: Is the baby hungry? Are they being adequately fed? When you’re looking at babies, you always have to keep monitoring their growth because the two things that tell you whether you’re getting things right are: if the baby is growing well and if they’re happy. If they’re not growing well or they’re not happy, then there’s something wrong and you need to do something about it. So you put the baby in a healthy environment. If you have to look at changing the mother’s diet, you’ll do. And you’ll sometimes find it can take up to two to three weeks of real, complete elimination of a food before you’ll see changes. In some cases, you’ll see changes within 24 or 48 hours, but that’s rarer than taking a longer time. So you need to change a mother’s diet and you will find that it makes a big difference to the baby. However, because breast milk is meant to make babies tolerant of foods, you don’t take out any more foods for any longer than you really need to. And you try to get those foods back into the baby’s diet while they’re still breastfeeding. And that’s why prolonged breastfeeding past six months is useful because you can go on breastfeeding some of the time and the baby has got a fallback position if in fact they find that they’re not coping too well with this, then they can go back to breastfeeding for a bit, and then go back to eating foods again. They are more likely to develop tolerance if other foods are introduced while breastfeeding is still going on.

ALICIA GONZALEZ; I have a perfect example of this actually. My last baby, we had so many things happen and I’m really glad that I’m here today actually, with this conversation because when he—I have to think back. So at three months, he had gone to the doctor for a well-baby check and I was breastfeeding exclusively. At five months, we took him in for–I thought he had an ear infection so we checked him over and he was fine. However, he wasn’t gaining weight very quickly on schedule. So they suggested to doing half breast milk, half formula. And I didn’t love it. So I didn’t quite do half and half. I did more, like 70-30. 70% breastfeeding, 30% formula. We went back about a month later and he gained no weight. So basically from the time he was three months old to the time he was almost six months old, he gained no ounces, which was really bad for a baby. So his pediatrician—the office that we were going to—told me immediately to take him off breastfeeding to fully 100% formula feed him and that I had to bring him back in two days and if he hadn’t gained at least two ounces, they’re going to take him away from me. They’re going to hospitalize him. And they were going to take it from there. That’s what she told me. So it was the day before Thanksgiving that this happened. And so she said “you’re coming back here on Friday, in between Thanksgiving and Saturday”. And so I went to Facebook and I was like “I don’t know what to do”, like “I’m doing everything right”. I didn’t breastfeed because I wanted to be the greatest mom ever. I did it because it seemed it was the natural, correct thing to do. It’s what worked for me naturally. So I went to Facebook and a friend of mine, whose mother is a lactation consultant—they live in Ohio—immediately got on my page and said “I need to put my mom in touch with you” and I’ll mind you, it was like midnight where they are now. And she said, “we’re getting in touch with you”.Her mom called me that night, told me, “don’t stop breastfeeding. Quit the formula and I’m going to put you in touch with the lactation consultant in your area”.

I found one in my zip code. She was like three minutes away. I called her that night. It was 9:15 in our time that night and I called her. She called me back within five minutes. I left this hysteric message on her voicemail. She called me back within five minutes and she said “your friend’s mom is absolutely right. Do not stop breastfeeding. I will be there Friday morning. I will take care of this. You are not taking him back to the doctor on Friday to do what they’ve told you to do. I’ll get this taken cared of with you”. They called me down a lot. Friday morning, she came over, she brought her scales so she can weigh him and then had me feed him,and they weighed him again. She saw that he was taking milk from me and he was so happy. She said this is not a miserable baby. Something is going on here, that there’s a disconnect between your milk and him gaining weight. So we just need to figure that out. First thing she said to me was, “Are you willing to take gluten and dairy out of your diet just to see if that helps him?” And I said absolutely. I’ll do whatever I need to if that’s what it takes and then I thought for a second and said, “ Oh my gosh! There goes my life without gluten, but I can do this”. That was Friday, I believe, after Thanksgiving. As of Saturday, I started it and she did tell me, “Don’t expect anything for two weeks. It takes two weeks to get those proteins out of your system”. And so we just went with it and from that two-week point to a month later, he gained a pound.


ALICIA GONZALEZ; A pound. Yes and from then on he gained and gained and gained. So I kept gluten and dairy out of our diet completely that whole time until he was one, and then I would introduce it here and there. Gluten, actually, I found out bothers me, which is why it was bothering him. Dairy, he's never been a baby to drink milk.

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Did other people lose symptoms as well as you and the baby?

ALICIA GONZALEZ; Thank you for asking that. Actually, his brother who was three years older than him had all kinds of problems as an infant. He was also diagnosed failure to thrive. No one ever figured this out. I was doing a mix of breastfeeding and formula with him once he was about seven months old. I went back to work full time. He was always underweight and everything. He always had issues like—I would use the gripe water. It was the only thing that would calm his stomach. Since he's older now, he's kind of outgrown it. But as soon as it happened with the baby about a month into it, I realized that had been all of the things I had been dealing with, with his brother that we never even knew until I got a lactation consultant involved. Now anytime I someone is breastfeeding, I tell them, “you have your pediatrician for their reasons, but you have to have access to a lactation consultant." You never know what's going on. You could be doing everything right and they will just guide you a little bit and make it even better.

LEILANI WILDE: Fill in the gaps. Yes, absolutely.

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Can I just say the reason for this is very simple. Your immune system is having to deal with everything and it makes antibodies out of protein in order to deal with things. Now if it's making antibodies out of protein or if the body is generating its merr on the child, you are looking at nutrients being used for growth. There’s only so many nutrients that the child can take in. If in fact they're needing them for their immune system, that takes priority overgrowth because your immune system keeps you alive. Growth is stunted by the fact that the nutrients are going in and the baby is coping with as much as they can cope with. But it's getting diverted into immune uses or have them into growth uses. There are two things of looking at-Is this a happy baby? Is this a contented baby? That's not to say it won't occasionally cry here or there. But there'll be a reason for crying that you as an attentive mother can know there. If it's a happy baby and a growing baby, then everything's going well. If it's not one of those, then something's going wrong because it's not a survival mechanism to make yourself obnoxious and to drive people crazy, and to prevent them getting any sleep so that they're beside themselves. Babies don't survive in environments like that.

LEILANI: Thank you Maureen.

MAUREEN MINCHIN: It's hard to know where to go.

LEILANI WILDE: I know. There’s so much information here and we could probably have ten episodes and get so much more. But we're going to have to wrap this up now. Thank you for joining us Maureen.

MAUREEN MINCHIN: Thanks for having me.

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Lara Andelo: Hi Boob Group listeners. I'm Lara Andelo, a Certified Lactation Educator, the Retail Marketing Manager of Best for Babes, and author of Mama Pear Designs. I'm here to answer some of your most common questions about how you can achieve your personal breastfeeding goals without being undermined by cultural and institutional booby traps such as: two out of three hospitals market formula to new moms. But is the tide turning? With only 4% of the hospitals and birth centers in the United States certified as baby-friendly, many moms receive formula gift bags given out by hospitals which are provided for free by the infant formula company. It’s a brilliant marketing move. It works to get their products in the hands of new parents, many of whom never intended to formula feed in the first place. There is lots of evidence online about this practice which can be found on the Best for Babes website in the Booby Trap Series. Smart as this idea was on the part of formula companies, it appears that the tide is turning and here's evidence of that. A recent study showed the decline in the distribution of the bags. Time Magazine reported in 2007, just 14% of hospitals refused to give out formula samples. Three years later, they checked back in with ten states that had distributed the most and least samples and found that the percentage of hospitals declining to distribute freebies had doubled.

The state of Rhode Island went entirely bag-free in November 2011.Okay, it was one of the smallest states by population but the fact that this was heralded by the state with a press conference makes it significant nonetheless. Consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, in collaboration with the US breastfeeding committee and numerous breastfeeding coalitions, launched a campaign in the spring of 2012 to eliminate the formula company bags down the hospitals. More hospitals are becoming baby-friendly. There are 141, as of March 2012 and of course, no baby from the hospitals can be shooed with formula bags, or take free formula for that matter. Kaiser Permanente recently announced that all of its hospitals will either become baby-friendly, or use the joint commission’s exclusive breastfeeding measure. While they didn’t commit to becoming bag-free at their non-baby-friendly hospitals, there will be significant pressure to do so if they want exclusive breastfeeding rates to rise.
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, announced in April of 2012 that this city of New York will adapt the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and is working to get almost 30 hospitals certified as baby-friendly in the next few years.

The tide is turning. The more aware mothers are, the faster we will see the practice of free formula bags end. Remember, education and support is crucial to breastfeeding success.
If you are having difficulties, please seek help from a lactation professional sooner than later. Doing so may be a small investment when you consider the long-term gain of getting your breastfeeding relationship on the right track. A special thank you to Tanya Lieberman, IBCLC for writing the Booby Trap Series for Best for Babes. Visit for more great information on how to meet your personal breastfeeding goals; and my business, for breastfeeding supportive wearables. And be sure to listen to the Boob Group for a fantastic conversation about breastfeeding and breastfeeding support.

LEILANI WILDE: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to the Boob Group. Don't forget to check out our sister show:
• Preggy Pals for expecting parents
• Newbies for newly postpartum moms and babies
• Parent Savers for moms and dads with infants and toddlers, and
• Twin Talks for parents with multiples.
Thanks for listening to the Boob Group, your judgment-free breastfeeding resource.

This has been a New Mommy Media production. The information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. While such information and materials are released to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, medical advice or care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problems or diseases or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.

SUNNY GAULT: New Mommy Media is expanding our line-up of shows for new and expecting parents. If you have an idea for a new series, or if you’re a business, or an organization interested in joining our network of shows through a co-branded podcast, visit


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