Before infant formula came along, breastfeeding was routine for all newborns. If a new mother could not produce enough breast milk, a wet nurse was found, since cow’s milk lead to small, sick babies that would not survive childhood. When drug companies created infant formulas, they claimed it was equal to or better than breast milk. Breastfeeding soon became obsolete and unsophisticated.
More recent research of babies and mothers has written a different story. Scientific study of breast milk has revealed substances that cannot be made in a laboratory. We now know that breastfeeding results in much healthier babies than formula feeding. The rates of childhood ear infections, diarrhea, and pneumonia are cut in half. The risks of childhood asthma and diabetes drop by more than a fourth. The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is lowered by a third, likewise for childhood obesity. Finally the risk of leukemia is reduced by a fifth. On a nationwide scale, breastfeeding babies exclusively for the first 6 months would prevent about a thousand infant deaths.
Breastfeeding helps the mother too. It lowers her risk of diabetes and cancers of the breast and ovary. Breastfeeding also reduces the chance of postpartum depression.
Patients say that breastfeeding is easy, healthy, and natural once you get the hang of it. There are very few reasons not to breastfeed. Your doctor will tell you if you shouldn’t. So let’s get in there and improve our national and personal health, and the health of our babies!
It’s an old solution, but still a good one.
From Paul Locus, MD
We gathered in the back corner of the convention center at 6AM on a brisk Sunday morning. Over the last few days, the volunteer medical staff had assembled a mobile hospital containing everything from a massage station to an ICU.
The race volunteers are known by their outfits. The Red Vests help runners and fans who have medical problems at the end of the race. The Black Hats wear Stetsons and cowboy boots as they oversee the organized chaos at the finish line of a major marathon. The Angels wear yellow windbreakers and help runners back to the warmth of the convention center after they finish.
Some of us nursed coffee to wake up, while others inhaled breakfast burritos in anticipation of the long day ahead. We had all volunteered for the finish line medical team for the marathon, half-marathon, and 5K. The team leaders checked their radios while the rest put on their red vests emblazoned with Finish Line Medical.
After our briefing, we grabbed portable oxygen tanks and Automated External Defibrillators and headed to the start corrals. Like past years, we spent most of our time directing nervous runners and telling family members where to watch their loved ones. After the starting gun fired, we moved to the finish line and split into assigned teams.
Partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the 40’s foretold a good race. The participants had trained for months for this day and the excitement filled the air. As the day warmed, our worries shifted from hypothermia and muscle cramps to heat stroke, hyponatremia, and dehydration. We scanned the passing runners for those who needed our help. Our challenge was to distinguish the majority of runners who would struggle successfully to the finish line from the small minority whose cardiovascular systems were about to collapse.
From the elite athletes who blazed course records to those at the back of the pack who struggled to finish before the six-hour time cut, I tip my hat to all the runners gave their best today.
The scene of the crime
If you ever wondered whether sticks and stones can break your bones, I can tell you they do. I was trying to pass another cyclist on a crowded bike path near my house when he suddenly turned left in front of me. I avoided hitting him, but my bike struck the corner post of a city bus stop while I flew over the handle bars. After I landed on the ground, I couldn’t move my left arm. When the paramedics put me in the ambulance, they warned me that the road to the trauma center was littered with potholes. They could not give me anything for pain, but I could curse all I wanted. At the ER, the doctor told me I had shattered my left wrist, broken a rib and three vertebrae in my neck, torn my left vertebral artery, and punctured a lung.
After six days in the hospital and one four and a half hour surgery, I returned home wearing a cervical collar and an external fixator. I felt as though someone was inflating a prickly cactus inside my arm then pouring hot coffee on it. I needed generous amounts of hydrocodone to keep the pain at bay. Every time I saw the hand therapist over the next three months, he asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten. A “four” never seemed to adequately describe the prickly cactus in my hand or the tearing feeling in my fingers as the therapist forced them to bend in a direction they did not want to go. After a while, I found myself picking a number just to satisfy him. I really wanted to say “today the pain is there, but I can handle it” or “that hurts like a @*%!.” My mental state affected my pain number more than the intensity of the pain did. Some days the pain got me down, but other days I knew that the only way to get better was to push through no matter how much the exercises hurt. Some days the best pain medicine was sitting in the swing in the back yard listening to my iPod. I knew the burning and prickly feeling in my wrist would stop someday, but I had no idea when that day would come. Riding a hundred miles or running in a fifty mile trail race hurts too, but I know when that pain will end.
We can digitize and quantify our patients’ health as much as we want, but we must always remember to ask them how they perceive what is happening to them.