Stress and Breastmilk Production

stressDoes stress reduce milk production?

Consider this scenario: You are late for an important appointment. You are just starting out the door when you discover baby poops through his last clean outfit and all over you, too! Your phone is buzzing in your purse and your hands are full with baby, diaper bag, and poop. That is a stressful moment, right? Every mom experiences high stress moments just like this.

Moms often hear that they should stay calm because feeling stressed will cause milk to “dry up”. The business of daily life, finances, relationship issues, illness, etc. are all common stressors moms face. Sometimes stress is sudden and ongoing such as in the case of natural disaster or war. The woman’s body is made to not only grow a baby, but also nourish and protect him once born. Moms can continue to breastfeed despite incredible circumstances.

Sometimes moms experience stress that is severe and intense, which can temporarily inhibit letdown. This is thought to be a protective mechanism. As one doctor put it so well, you wouldn’t want to be leaving a trail of milk behind if you were running from a tiger! Over a long period of time, it is possible for chronic stress to inhibit letdown often and long enough that milk production can be decreased. This is usually not the case, as breastfeeding releases hormones that helps mothers and babies both relax and have an easier time enduring stress, even under the worst of circumstances.

What can I do if  I’m in a situation where I’m under ongoing, chronic stress and it is affecting my letdown? 

Letdown can be triggered by associations, such as sights, smells, and emotions. Below are some tips for initiating letdown before and during breastfeeding or pumping. You can try any combination of these that makes sense to you.

  • Find a location to feed your baby (or pump) where you feel very comfortable and safe. Choose a place that is free from intrusion and distraction.
  • Make an effort to relax as much as possible before feeding or pumping. Listen to music, take a few cleansing breaths, pray, smell a relaxing scent, or do anything else that helps you feel at peace.
  • Consider trying breast massage prior to nursing or pumping. It has been shown to assist with milk ejection and overall milk removal.
  • Bend over at your waist so that your breasts dangle from your rib cage, and shimmy your shoulders (move them back and forth) so that your breasts shake. This movement helps loosen tension in your neck and shoulders and assists milk in moving forward in the breast.
  • Consider using Reverse Pressure Softening (RPS) to promote letdown: “Steady stimulation of the nerves under the areola automatically triggers the milk ejection reflex, propelling milk forward in the breast, nearly always within 1-2 minutes or less.”–Jean Cotterman
  • Enjoy the moment. If you are with your baby, smell his head and stroke his hair. If you’re away from your baby, smell a piece of his worn clothing and/or listen to his cries on a recording. Some moms like to watch videos of their baby cooing, crying, or breastfeeding on their phone. This creates an emotional connection, and can help promote milk release.
  • Visualize milk spraying forth from your breasts like a waterfall or a rushing river. It sounds strange, but it often works!
  • If you are with someone you trust and feel comfortable asking, have them rub your shoulders and apply pressure between your shoulder blades. This, too, can help trigger the release of oxytocin and assist in milk ejection.
  • Drink water. Moms often sip water while nursing, so that alone may initiate letdown through what is known as conditioned response.
  • If you’re pumping, the hands-on pumping technique can aid in milk ejection and help you maximize milk removal.
  • Consider breastfeeding while bathing with your baby. This can help release tension in your muscles, and may help your milk flow freely.
  • Between feedings, spend time in skin-to-skin contact with your baby. This will help you  both relax, and aid in release of hormones associated with breastfeeding.

Breaking free from stress

  • Talk to a counselor or traditional healer.  Ask family and friends for support. Stress is often relieved by talking through your feelings and concerns, even if there isn’t a solution to your current problem.
  • Contact your IBCLC, WIC PC, or volunteer breastfeeding counselor for continued support, including tips to manage stress as it relates to mothering and breastfeeding.
  • Eat well and exercise. Eating nutrient-dense foods gives your body the necessary vitamins, minerals, and energy needed to overcome stress. Exercise is a well-known stress buster. Even a 30 minute walk around the block can lower blood pressure, ease tension, and clear your mind.
  • Contact a medical or mental health professional if you’re experiencing ongoing, chronic stress. They can provide information for stress management, and evaluate for related issues like depression and anxiety.
  • Consider talking to your doctor about taking a magnesium supplement.  This mineral is often depleted during times of chronic stress, and some experts suggest that supplementation may help reduce stress-related symptoms.

Stress Resources:

Coping With Perinatal Stress and Depression by Cynthia Good Mojab, MS, LMHCA, IBCLC, RLC, CATSM

Mental Health Care for Postpartum Depression During Breastfeeding by Cynthia Good Mojab, MS, LMHCA, IBCLC, RLC, CATSM

American Heart Association: Four Ways to Deal With Stress

American Psychological Association: Coping with Stress and Anxiety

Working Moms and Stress Relief

Stress Management for Parents

Uppity Science Chick: The stress-lowering effects of breastfeeding (list of reference articles)

The Toxic Effects of Stress on American Indians


Chen, D., Nommsen-Rivers, L., Dewey, K., & Lonnerdal, B. (1998). Stress During Labor and Delivery and Early Lactation Performance. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey, 68(2), 81-82.

Dewey, K. (2001). Maternal and Fetal Stress Are Associated with Impaired Lactogenesis in Humans. The Journal of Nutrition, 133(11), 30125-30155.

Groer, M., Davis, M., & Hemphill, J. (2002). Postpartum Stress: Current Concepts and the Possible Protective Role of Breastfeeding. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing, 31(4), 411-417.

Heinrichs, M., Neumann, I., & Ehlert, U. (n.d.). Lactation and Stress: Protective Effects of Breast-feeding in Humans. Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress, 195-203.

Lau, C. (2001). Effects of Stress on Lactation. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 48(1), 221-234.

Mezzacappa, E., & Katkin, E. (2002). Breast-feeding is associated with reduced perceived stress and negative mood in mothers. Health Psychology, 21(2), 187-193.

© Jolie Black Bear 2015

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How can I pump more breastmilk?

Moms who need to express their milk exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding are often concerned about their milk production. Combining breast massage and hand expression with pumping can help moms remove more milk and drain the breast more fully. Put simply, hands-on pumping helps maximize the amount of milk removed now and maintain milk production in the future.

What is Hands-on Pumping?

Hands-on pumping is a milk expression technique in which moms use their hands to assist in milk removal. Breast massage and hand expression combined with pumping has been shown to maximize milk removal and subsequently, milk production. When using this technique, it is possible to effectively double the amount of milk expressed!

Why Hands-on?

  • 85 percent of moms with babies between the ages of 1.5 and 4.5 months of age have used a breast pump  (Labiner-Wolfe 2008)
  • The perception of not making enough milk is one of the top three reasons moms give for weaning (Li 2008)
  • When a baby breastfeeds effectively, he uses a combination of vacuum and the action of the jaw and tongue to remove milk (Geddes 2007)
  • The vacuum of a pump alone is less effective at removing milk that is thick and sticky like colostrum or fat-rich breastmilk (Steakly 2012)
  • Hands-on pumping helps moms remove up to 48 percent more milk than expressing by pump alone (Morton 2009)
  • Hands-on pumping increases the amount of fat-rich and calorie-dense milk moms are able to express (Morton 2012)

Hands-on Pumping How-To

  1. Massage your breasts to help stimulate the milk ejection reflex. Use your fingers held flat against your breast and gently massage in a circular motion from the point where the breast meets the chest in a downward direction towards the nipple.

    Massage with hands while double pumping using a hands-free bustier  Image copyright Beth Waldorf--All Rights Reserved

    Massage with hands while double pumping using a hands-free bustier
    Image copyright Beth Walldorf–All Rights Reserved

  2. Double pump. Assure your breastshields fit well. Find a level of suction that is comfortable and effective for you. Consider using a “hands free” pumping bra, bustier, or sports bra with holes cut for the breastshields so that you can pump without having to hold them in place. This frees your hands so you can massage and compress your breasts while pumping.
  3. When the sprays of milk slow to dribbles, stop pumping and repeat massage. Feel for areas of firmness. With gentle pressure, massage behind any area that still feels firm in a downwards direction towards the nipple.

    Use your hands to compress and massage while single pumping.  Image copyright Beth Waldorf--All rights reserved

    Use your hands to compress and massage while single pumping.
    Image copyright Beth Walldorf–All rights reserved

  4. Single pump or hand express to complete your pumping session. Alternate breasts (right to left to right). Give each breast a short rest before expressing it again. Feel for areas of firmness and gently massage them out. Pay close attention to the outside of the breasts, as this will be the areas least likely to be well drained from pumping alone. Let the sprays of milk be your guide as to where your breast needs compression and massage. Experiment and develop your own technique. With practice, you will find what works best for you!
Hand express directly into the breastshield of your pump.  Image copyright Beth Waldorf--All rights reserved

Hand express directly into the breastshield of your pump.
Image copyright Beth Walldorf–All rights reserved








Watch a video: Dr. Jane Morton explains her research, and mothers demonstrate the hands-on technique. Please click the link then click “proceed” in order to view the video.
Maximizing Milk Production With Hands on Pumping

Some additional ways to help maximize and maintain milk production:

  • Spend as much time as possible holding your baby and/or  in skin to skin contact with your baby. Close contact with your baby encourages the “flow” of the breastfeeding hormones prolactin and oxytocin.
  • Keep a flexible schedule for removing milk. Aim to breastfeed or express your milk at least 8 times in 24 hours.
  • Music has been associated with increasing the amount of milk expressed in NICU settings. The music in the study cited in the link above is available as a free download.
  • Consider warming your breastshields before pumping. One study found that using warm breastshields along with maximum comfortable vacuum decreased the time needed to remove 80 percent of the milk volume.
  • If you have difficulty initiating letdown, Reverse Pressure Softening can help by stimulating the nerves that lie under the areola. These nerves control the release of the hormone oxytocin, which is responsible for milk release. Most moms can initiate letdown with RPS in 1-2 minutes. It is especially helpful when engorgement makes latching or pumping difficult.
  • Choose a breastpump that is right for your pumping needs. Talk to an IBCLC to get personalized assistance finding a pump that works for you.

Hands-on pumping was developed by Dr. Jane Morton and studied at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and Stanford University School of Medicine.


Geddes, D., Kent, J., Mitoulas, L., & Hartmann, P. (2007). Tongue movement and intra-oral vacuum in breastfeeding infants. Early Human Development, 84(7), 471-477.

Labiner-Wolfe, J., S. B. Fein, K. R. Shealy, and C. Wang. (2008) ”Prevalence Of Breast Milk Expression And Associated Factors.” Pediatrics 122. Supplement: S63-S68. Print.

Li, R., S. B. Fein, J. Chen, and L. M. Grummer-Strawn. (2008) ”Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mothers’ Self-reported Reasons For Stopping During The First Year.” Pediatrics 122.Supplement: S69-S76. Print.

Morton, J., Hall, J., Wong, R., Thairu, L., Benitz, W., & Rhine, W. (2009). Combining hand techniques with electric pumping increases milk production in mothers of preterm infants. Journal of Perinatology, 757-764.

Morton, J., Wong, R., Hall, J., Pang, W., Lai, C., Lui, J., Hartmann, PE., Rhine, W. (2012). Combining hand techniques with electric pumping increases the caloric content of milk in mothers of preterm infants. Journal of Perinatology, 32. 791-796.

Steakly, Lia. “Stanford expert discusses breastfeeding techniques.” SCOPE. Stanford School of Medicine. March 2012. Web. 5 Dec. 2013


Illustrations by Beth Whetstone Walldorf

Beth is an experienced and talented artist who works in a variety of mediums, most notably oils and acrylics. She holds a BA from Jacksonville State University and currently teaches art at Decatur High School. She and her husband live in Decatur, AL with their two girls who were both breastfed. Thank you, Beth, for sharing your time and talents for this project!



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Guest Post: A mother’s birth and breastfeeding story

(c) 2014 E. Gomez

(c) 2014 E. Gomez

I decided when I found out I was pregnant, to do all that I could for my child from the start. I changed my household and beauty products. I began to strictly buy the best food available. Thankfully, it is not hard to achieve this on the SF peninsula. I contacted a doula in my area who also became my Yogi & guide to meditation, which I have always struggled with. Early on I decided that my birth would be natural and my children would be breastfed.

Being born in late 70′s to a Mexican immigrant I was not breastfed. It just, “wasn’t done”, was my mothers only explanation. Her mother did not breastfed her children either. Back then they had wet nurses that did the breast feeding. I can not imagine missing out on the connection breastfeeding gave me with my children. But that was part of the culture at the time and I am not willing to judge their choices. Especially since my family was understanding & very supportive of mine.

My sons birth was wonderful and peaceful. Lasting only 3 hours from start to finish. With my Abuela, my Mothers, and husband present. They prayed they even sang, it was wonderful. My doula was an amazing advocate for my choices in the labor & delivery room and after. My son latched on without a problem in the hospital and we were sent home on schedule.

Our first night home was another story completely. It was near 100 degrees and I became so engorged that he could not latch. We cried together most of the night. I called the lactation nurse in a panic she gave me some advice that I did not execute well. After another desperate call full of tears we made an appointment for a at home visit the next day. She came over bright and early and changed our lives. Diego was able to latch and ate with gusto. I decided to join her lactation support group at the local hospital which met once a week. It was pretty much a huge meeting room with chairs lined along the walls women of all ages and races with our brand new to 2 year old babies. That group was my lifesaver throughout the first six months of my son’s life. Whatever questions or thoughts we had we voiced them there. It was a safe space to talk amongst supportive women going through the same things. I learned so very much from them all, and made some forever friends.

At that point my son was a happy very chubby baby that no one could believe I only breastfed. People often commented on the fact that they, “knew”, breastfed babies were skinny, less healthy looking, and never slept through the night. We changed their minds about that quickly. I had decided that I would breastfeed my children for a year. It seemed like a substantial enough amount of time but I was not opposed to breastfeeding for longer if they needed.

When my son was 7 months old I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. Being that my son was such a healthy eater, breastfeeding began to drain me. I was exhausted, I began to try to pump to freeze a reserve for him in case I could not longer continue. Since I am in this country alone without my family I had never been separated from my son at all. I had never had to pump or give him a bottle. This was challenging, he detested the bottle. I bought every brand available no matter the price with no success. I began to donate my stored milk to mothers with low supply or mothers who had adopted infants so that it would not go to waste. Finally we found a nipple he would take. I began to give him one bottle a day just to get him used to the idea. He turned a year old and I began to wean him off my breast, more bottle than mama; I also continued to pump. By the time he was a year and 3 months he was only being bottle fed and had 3 months of stored supply. I was too tired to continue.

When my daughter was born I obviously began the whole process again. He showed some interest, so I fed him from time to time. But he lost interest within a couple months. The world was his oyster now that he was mobile. With my daughter I introduced the bottle a little earlier. I stayed most of that year in Mexico with my family and had help with my daughter so that I could take my son out for some bonding time just he and I. I did not want him to feel jealousy of his baby sister. She was another happy chubby breastfed baby that slept and ate very well. I began to wean her at a year and a month old. And by a year and 4 months she was drinking the 3 months of stores milk I had for her. Breastfeeding was a wonderful experience for me and my children. It took some of my family members some getting used to me feeding in public. But I made sure to do my best to be open to their questions or comments.

I wore my children for the first year of their lives which is “not done” in Mexico any longer either. The classes are less defined today but still exist and the lower classes are the only people you will see feed their children in public or wear their children. Our friends and neighbors became used to seeing me wearing my babies and stopped staring. I am happy to see a change in this generation of a larger middle class. Hopefully soon there will be more education and support for breastfeeding there as well. I have spoken to all my nieces of my experience and a few have even followed my lead. Becoming a mother has made my life so much more meaningful. And I am blessed to have been able to give my children the best start in life possible. I wish that for us all.

(c) 2014 E. Gomez

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¿Qué tiene la leche materna?

Traducción: Laura Nafissi, Vanina Schoeijett, Verónica Garea, IBCLC.
Revisión: Delfina Medeot
babybluependleton.jpgPuede ser que hayas escuchado a las mujeres de tu comunidad, quizá tu madre o tu abuela, hablando de amamantar a sus bebés. Mucha gente dice que amamantar es la “mejor” opción para todas las madres y que todas las madres deberían amamantar a sus bebés. ¿Te preguntaste alguna vez qué tiene la leche humana que la hace tan diferente de la fórmula? A diferencia de la fórmula tu leche es específica de la especie (hecha para los humanos) y brinda todos los nutrientes necesarios para que tu bebé crezca sana y fuerte.
La leche está compuesta de muchas partes. Están los elementos no-nutritivos, algunos tan pequeños que ni el mejor laboratorio los puede replicar. Estos componentes bioactivos ofrecen más que alimento: se ocupan de proteger el tracto urinario de tu bebé de infecciones y de mantener el intestino libre de bacterias nocivas y virus. Se especula que la razón por la que la leche de las madres tiene tantos anticuerpos y componente inmunológicos es que al nacer el sistema de defensa del bebé está muy inmaduro. El sistema inmunológico de tu hijo no madurará por completo hasta aproximadamente los cuatro años de edad, así que tu bebé nace relativamente indefenso y muy vulnerable a la enfermedad. Cuando amamantas proteges a tu bebé recubriendo sus intestinos y otras partes de su sistema digestivo inmaduro con proteínas protectoras, especializadas, y los factores inmunológicos de la leche materna hacen su trabajo también en el torrente sanguíneo. Tu leche es una barrera sólida contra gérmenes indeseables.
De acuerdo con el trabajo esclarecedor de la Dra Ann  Prentice en 1996, la lista de factores no-nutritivos incluye los siguientes elementos:
“Factores antimicrobiales: IgA  secretora, IgM, IgG, lactoferrina, lisozima, componente C#, leucócitos, factor Bifidus, lípidos y ácidos grasos, mucinas antivirales, GAGs, oligosacáridos.”
• La lactoferrina funciona como un transporte de hierro que también actúa como antimicrobiano, en particular contra la bacteria E.coli.
• La lisozima es bactericida (mata bacterias) y anti inflamatoria, y a medida que sigues amamantando, sus niveles aumentan paulatinamente y alcanzan su máximo  aproximadamente a los 6 meses. Amamanta a tu bebé durante el tiempo que quieras, tu leche lo protegerá de enfermedades mientras dure la lactancia
• sIgA, IgG e IgM trabajan brindando una extensión del sistema inmunológico de la madre hacia el bebé. Los anticuerpos de la madre se expresan en la leche para dar inmunidad (protección) a enfermedades específicas (antígenos) en el ambiente. Mantener a la madre y la bebé juntos después del nacimiento le da a la madre más oportunidades de desarrollar anticuerpos a cualquier bacteria en su entorno común. Si este tema te interesa especialmente, aquí tienen otro artículo sobre el sistema inmune entero-mamario (N de T: en inglés)
• Los ácidos grasos poliinsaturados de cadena larga, en particular DHA y AA, están asociados a la visión y al proceso cognitivo (pensamiento). El contenido de estos dos factores en la leche materna está vinculado con la dieta de la madre.
Otros ejemplos de componentes no-nutricionales de la leche materna en el artículo de Ann Prentice:
“Citokinas/antiinflamatorios: factor de necrosis tumoral, interleukinas, interferón-gama, prostaglandinas, antioxidantes, antitripsina α-1, antiquimotripsina α-1.
Hormonas: Inhibidor por realimentación (FIL), insulina, cortisol, prolactina, hormona tiroidea, corticoesteroides, ACTH, ocitocina, calcitonina, PHrP, eritropoyetina.
Enzimas digestivas/otros: esterasa BSS, lipasa BSS, amilasa, lipasa-lipoporteína, casomorfina, péptidos β, nucleótidos, ADN, ARN.”
Notarás que algunos de los componentes que hemos listado en este artículo están repetidos en más de una categoría: éstos sirven para más de un propósito. De hecho, algunos de estos factores tienen propósitos nutricionales luego de que han cumplido su trabajo antimicrobiano y han sido digeridos y absorbidos. Se relacionan unos con otros y con el cuerpo del bebé. En tanto la leche es digerida, más factores bioactivos son producidos y van teniendo nuevos efectos en el bebé. Puedes verlo como un círculo conectado entre la madre, el bebé y la leche.
Aquí van algunos detalles más sobre los principales componentes de la leche:
• La amilasa es una enzima necesaria para que el cuerpo descomponga los almidones que contienen los alimentos. Hace la digestión de la leche materna mucho más fácil para tu bebé.
• La lipasa es una enzima que el cuerpo necesita para descomponer las grasas y es también beneficiosa para tu bebé.
• El factor activador de plaquetas ayuda a acelerar cualquier necesidad de curar los pezones de la madre y también los intestinos del infante.
• La caseína dificulta que los microbios se peguen a las paredes mucosas del cuerpo de tu bebé. Esas paredes recubren la parte interna de los pulmones, del tracto digestivo, de la nariz. Todas las puertas de entrada están cubiertas por mucosa.
• Los oligosacáridos trabajan como los principales protectores contra los gérmenes. Poseen partes llamadas “ligadores” que engañan a las bacterias y virus haciéndoles creer que son partes del bebé; las bacterias y virus se adhieren a los oligosacáridos en su lugar y luego son eliminados del cuerpo del bebé.
Existen ciertas proteínas en la leche que ofrecen funciones de protección:
• -caseína
• Proteínas del suero: -lactoalbúmina: Alfa-lactoalbúmina Humana Hecha Letal para las Células Tumorales (HAMLET por sus siglas en Inglés), lactoferrina, inmunoglobulinas, lisozima y seroalbúmina.
Existen carbohidratos que proveen las calorías necesarias para el crecimiento de tu bebé:
• Lactosa
• Lacto-N-tetraosa
Existen grasas que sostienen el almacenamiento de calorías  para los picos de crecimiento y son esenciales para el desarrollo del cerebro y de la visión:
• Triglicéridos (la grasa primaria en la leche materna)
• Ácido oleico
• Ácido palmítico
• Ácido araquidónico (AA)
• Ácido docosahexaenoicoExisten células que hacen un trabajo especial manteniendo a tu bebé sano:
• Leucocitos (glóbulos blancos): fagocitos, basófilos, neutrófilos, eosinófilos y macrófagos
• Linfocitos: células T y B
• Células  madre
Hay  factores de crecimiento:
 Cortisol
 Insulínico
 Tiroxina
 Colecistoquinina
 Epidérmico
 Nervioso
 Transformante
 Taurina
 Poliaminas
* Las siguientes secciones de hormonas (vitaminas, minerales, transportadores, y citoquinas) estarían incompletas si no fuera por el trabajo de Cecily Hedberg, Sherri Hedberg, y Haley Rumble. Nos basamos en gran medida en su trabajo, y el crédito de esta sección es de ellas con adiciones nuestras de poca importancia.
Hay hormonas:
 Oxitocina
 Prolactina
 Factor inhibidor (FIL)
 Insulina
 Cortisol
 Corticoesteroides
 Hormona adrenocorticotrópica (ACTH)
 Calcitonina
 Hormona Paratiroidea (PHrP)
 Eritropoyetina
 Triyodotironina (T3)
 Hormona tiroidea estimulante (TSH)
 Hormona liberadora de tirotropina (TRH)
 Trombopoyetina
 Hormona liberadora de gonadotropina (GnRH)
 Hormona liberadora de la hormona de crecimiento (GRH)
 Leptina
 Grelina
Hay vitaminas:
 Vitamina A
 Vitamina C
 Vitamina B1
 Vitamina B2
 Vitamina D
 Vitamina E
 Vitamina K
 Betacarotenos
 Tocoferoles
 Tiamina
 Riboflavina
 Niacina
 Ácido Fólico
 Ácido pantoténico
 Biotina
Los minerales:
 Calcio
 Fósforo
 Sodio
 Potasio
 Cloro
 Zinc
 Magnesio
 Hierro
 Selenio
 Colina
 Azufre
 Cromo
 Cobalto
 Flúor
Hay citocinas / elementos antiinflamatorios
 Antioxidantes
 α -1 antitripsina
 α -1 antiquimotripsina
 Interleukina-1β (IL-1β)
 IL-2
 IL-4
 IL-6
 IL-8
 IL-10
 Factor estimulante de colonias de granulocitos (G-CSF)
 Factor estimulante de colonias de macrófagos (M-CSF)
 Factor de crecimiento derivado de las plaquetas (PDGF)
 Factor de crecimiento endotelial vascular (VEGF)
 Factor de crecimiento de los hepatocitos -α (HGF-α)
 HGF-β
 Factor de necrosis tumoral-α
 Interferón-γ
 Factor de crecimiento epitelial (EGF)
 Factor de crecimiento transformante-α (TGF-α)
 TGF β1
 TGF-β2
 Factor de crecimiento insulínico-I (IGF-I)
 Factor de crecimiento insulínico- II
 Factor de crecimiento nervioso (NGF)
 Eritropoyetina
También hay transportadores:
 Lactoferrina
 Aglutinante de folato
 Aglutinante de cobalamina
 Aglutinante de IGF
 Aglutinante de tiroxina
 Aglutinante de corticosteroide
Hay muchas cosas buenas en la leche materna que aún se desconocen, y el tema sigue siendo explorado. Los efectos de la lactancia materna en tu bebé durarán hasta su vida adulta, y pueden influir en la salud de sus hijos, nietos y las generaciones posteriores. Incluso si estás fumando o bebes de vez en cuando, tu bebé todavía necesita tu leche. La próxima vez que alguien te diga que la fórmula es más fácil, puedes mostrarles este artículo, y podrán comparar los ingredientes en la parte posterior de una lata fórmula con esta lista. La lactancia materna es la opción natural, y amamantar a tu bebé resulta mejor para la salud de ambos.

Prentice, A. (1996) Constituents of human milk,. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, (The United Nations University Press), 17(4)
Heslett, c., Hedberg, S. & Rumble, H. Breastmilk poster. Douglas College, new Westminster, BC, Canada
Riordan, J. & Wombach, K. (2010), Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, 4th edition. Jones and Barlett Publishers
Lucas, A., Gibbs, J. & Baum, J.D. (1977), What´s in breastmilk. Lancet, 8019:1011-2
Garofalo, R. (2010), Cytokines in human milk. Journal of Pediatrics. 152 (2 suppl): s36-40
Walker, a. (2010) Breastmilk as the gold standard of protective nutrients. Journal of Pediatrics, 152 (2 suppl): s3-7
Cregan, M.D. et al. (2007), Identification of nestin- positive putative mammary stem cells in human breastmilk. Cell Tissue Res. 329 (1): 129- 36
Lehti, K.K. (1989), Iron, folic acid and zinc intakes and status of low socio- economic pregnant and lactation amazonian women. Europian Journal of clinical Nutrition. 43 (8); 505 -13.
(c) 2011. Serena Meyer, IBCLC
Actualizado 16/07/2012

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We’re still here!

april-2011-238We apologize for our lack of posts these last few months. Our writing team is busy, busy, busy with family, school, and work. There never seem to be enough hours in the day to do all we would like and writing has unfortunately hit the bottom of the collective “to do” pile. Expect more posts from us near the holiday season (aka winter break). We have many exciting posts in the works, including some just for moms who need to express their milk. There will be guest posts, too!

In the meanwhile, please tell us what topics YOU would like to read about. We welcome your ideas (and perhaps even your guest post). Don’t forget to check us out on Twitter and Facebook. Use the quick navigation buttons on the right hand side of the page to take you there.

Thank you for your continued support of Native Mothering. We couldn’t do it without you!

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10 Ways Families Can Support Breastfeeding

You are welcoming a new baby to the family. Congratulations! Breastfeeding is one of the healthiest, most rewarding things a mom can do for her baby. It is only natural that you want to support the new mother in breastfeeding and to make it as easy as possible for her to succeed. Here are a few tips that you may find helpful along the way.


1. Learn more about breastfeeding before the baby arrives. Reading books and articles from respected, evidence-based resources can help you gain a better understanding of how breastfeeding works and what to expect. Talking to other mothers about their breastfeeding experiences can also be a valuable way to learn.
2. Support her choice to breastfeed. Let her know you’ll do what you can to help her breastfeed as long as she desires. Don’t try to persuade her to offer bottles of breastmilk or formula when not medically indicated. Remember that there are many ways for family members to bond with the baby besides feeding.
3. Bring her water or her favorite beverage and a snack. Breastfeeding can make moms feel thirsty and hungry. New moms tend to care for their babies before themselves, and their own needs may go temporarily unmet without a little help. A refreshing drink of water in the middle of a marathon feeding can really make a new mom’s day!
4. Give her a break. After she breastfeeds her baby, offer to hold, rock, or carry the baby in a sling or front carrier while she rests (or showers, or goes for a walk around the block, or…). Assure Mom you will let her know when baby shows early signs of hunger.
5. Help her with baby care. Offer to change the baby’s diaper or bathe the baby while she takes care of her own personal needs.
6. Help with the chores. Ask Mom what she needs you to do or ask her to leave a list on the refrigerator. Laundry, vacuuming, sweeping, cooking, dishes, and grocery shopping are chores that most often top the “to do” list.
7. If there are older children, read to them, play with them, or take them out for the afternoon. The one-on-one time will be special for them, and Mom will appreciate the time to bond with her new baby.
8. Entertain house guests and enable Mom to have a quiet space alone with the new baby. During the early weeks it is common for babies to spend a lot of time breastfeeding. Mom will still be healing after birth, and entertaining for long periods of time may be tiresome. She may even feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of certain people. Entertaining guests can help take the pressure off of Mom to be sociable and allow her time and space to rest and bond with her baby.
9. Help her deal with criticism about breastfeeding. Remind her of all things she is doing right. Provide her with unbiased, evidence-based information that will help her overcome the criticism (for example, if she is being criticized for not supplementing remind her of how to tell her baby is getting enough milk). If necessary, step in and speak for Mom in a good way.
10. Tell her you’re proud of her for breastfeeding. Your encouragement and support could be the difference between her continuing with breastfeeding as long as she plans to or stopping before she is ready. You are an important part of her success!

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Emily and Zora

Emily and Zora_breastfeeding

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10 Tips for Breastfeeding in Public–With Confidence!

New mothers need to be out and about with their babies and often have lots of questions about breastfeeding away from home. Here are some easy tips to help you breastfeed fearlessly anywhere.

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image used with permission–do not copy

1. Attend a breastfeeding support group or meet-up and see how other moms are breastfeeding confidently in public. Confidence is contagious!

2. Practice makes perfect! Practice your breastfeeding technique at home in front of a mirror or with a trusted friend or family member who can tell you what they see from angles that you can’t see. Maintaining the level of modesty that you desire gets easier with trial and experience.

3. Wear a bra that allows easy access with one hand. Being able to hold your baby and access your breast with one hand makes latching on a virtually seamless move.

4. Is latching on the most awkward part for you? Try leaving the room or turning your back while your baby latches on. When baby is nursing comfortably, return to what you were doing as if nothing happened. Smooth.

5. In a restaurant, sit with your back to the crowd. No one is likely to notice your quietly breastfeeding baby from behind. A roomy booth provides the most comfort and privacy.

6. A baby cradled close in mom’s arms looks like a sleeping baby. Most bystanders won’t even notice you’re breastfeeding. See someone looking your direction? Make eye contact and smile!

7. Pull your shirt up from the bottom rather than pulling your breast out over the top of your shirt. Wearing a shirt that it is a little loose will give you the most coverage all around.

8. Looking for more coverage? Wear clothes or undergarments (such as nursing camisoles) that are designed for breastfeeding moms. They offer strategically-placed access holes that allow you to breastfeed while remaining comfortably covered whether you want complete modesty or just to cover your post-pregnancy tummy. For an inexpensive alternative, cut slits into a regular tank top or camisole and wear it under any shirt you already own.

9. Breastfeed while carrying your baby in a sling, wrap, or other soft carrier. The fabric of the carrier will help keep you covered. Bonus: You can walk, do chores, or a million and one other things while you are wearing your baby.

10. Still feeling shy about breastfeeding in public?  A nursing cover or blanket thrown across your shoulder and your baby offers full coverage and can provide for complete modesty.

Remember: Anything that helps you feel comfortable and confident while breastfeeding in public is right for you. There are no rules! Do what works best for you and your baby and makes breastfeeding an enjoyable part of your everyday life.





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Frequently Asked Questions About Breastfeeding and Diet

Many mothers wonder how their diets may affect the quantity and quality of their breastmilk. With so much emphasis in both the popular media and the medical literature on the effects of processed foods, sugar, and artificial ingredients on health, women who have difficulty eating a more natural diet may worry that breastfeeding might not always be the safest or most nutritious choice. Maybe you have heard that you should change your diet while you are breastfeeding, or perhaps you have been told that it’s fine to eat “whatever you want.” Here are some answers to these questions. Please contact us via the website or Facebook page if your question does not appear here.

31st Annual Thunderbird Mid-summer Native American Festival

I have heard that the way we eat today puts us at higher risk for illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. What about my baby’s health? Is my milk still best for him?

Yes! Even if your diet contains more processed and convenience foods than is best for your health, your milk will still be the best available food for your baby.

It is clear from the research that breastfeeding is the single best way for a mother to safeguard her infant’s health: babies not breastfed have higher risk of diabetes, diarrhea, ear infections, rashes, allergies, childhood cancer, respiratory illnesses, asthma, and SIDS, (Bartick & Reinhold, 2010; Stuebe, 2009), and the protection offered by breastfeeding does not depend on the mother’s diet.

Formula, whether milk-based or soy-based, factory-produced or homemade, can never provide your baby with all the specific nutrients and immune factors essential for his health. Your milk changes composition in order to best meet your baby’s needs as he grows. Also, breastmilk contains immune factors to protect him against illness–no formula offers immune protection. While most infants can survive and grow on formula, some ingredients are associated with health problems. The proteins in formula are different from the proteins in your milk and are associated with increased risk for certain diseases like juvenile diabetes (Virtanen et al., 1994; Kolb & Wassmuth, 2000) and colitis (Host, 1994; Savilahti et al., 2010). The iron in formula is less available and harder to absorb than the iron in your milk, and it may cause undesirable changes in your baby’s gut bacteria (Balmer & Wharton, 1989; Mevissen-Verhage et al., 1985). When considering how to feed your baby, remember that milk from your breast is always fresh. Formulas, whether homemade or store-bought, carry the additional risk of contamination with disease-causing bacteria from processing facilities (Power et al., 2013) or farm animals.

Research has found little significant variation between the milks of mothers with different diets. For example the amounts and types of fats may vary (Cruz-Hernandez et al., 2013; Innis & Kuhnlein, 1988), but no diet has been found to result in breastmilk that is inferior to formula or inadequate to meet an infant’s needs. Humans are “omnivores” and have the ability to both stay healthy and produce high-quality breastmilk on diets that vary widely in both composition and quantity of foods. When your body makes milk, it produces the nutrients, non-nutritive elements, and immune factors your baby needs in the proper quantities (Hassiotou et al., 2013).

Even if a formula were just as nutritious as breastmilk, breastfeeding is about so much more than the milk. It is a special relationship that is uniquely yours–something only you can do for your baby. Breastfeeding keeps your baby safe and warm, promotes normal sleep patterns, allows normal brain development, and develops his immune system (including his thymus gland). The breastfeeding relationship cannot be bottled, and breastfeeding is best for your health, too.

My diet is limited to my budget, and I don’t always have access to fresh fruits and vegetables–is my milk still nutritious?

Absolutely! Your milk is always the most nutritious food for your baby, even if your diet is not as varied and nutritious as recommended by health experts. Information about nutrition during pregnancy and breastfeeding may not take into account the limitations that many mothers face: lack of food, limited access to fresh foods, and limited or no access to common food-preparation needs such as running water, stove, refrigerator, or microwave. That said, eating as wisely as possible is best for your health and that of your children. Cutting back on fast and convenience foods and increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and other whole foods will be better for your health, especially for reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease. If you are in a situation that limits the food you have available, here are some ideas:

  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables from a local fruit stand, farmers’ market, or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) organization. They are usually cheaper than your local grocery store (especially if you live where convenience stores are your main shopping centers or where fruits and vegetables are usually trucked or flown in). Many accept SNAP benefits or WIC cash value checks. You may even be able to barter for fresh food this way simply by asking.
  • Keep dry ingredients like beans, rice, and pasta on hand: they make inexpensive bases for healthy meals.

  • Pre-packaged “health foods” like granola bars and cereals are costly and often have unnecessary added sugar. Making your own snacks from bulk ingredients like nuts, oatmeal, cornmeal, and whole-grain flour costs less than buying commercial snacks and are healthier because you control the ingredients.

  • Build your weekly or daily menu around what is on sale at your local grocery store. Shop for markdowns in the meat, produce, dairy, and bakery sections. These sales may save you 30-50% of the cost.

  • If you do most of your shopping at convenience stores, choose more healthful options like mixed nuts instead of potato chips.

  • If you use a food bank, don’t be afraid to ask specifically for healthy foods.

  • Remember that WIC and SNAP both allow produce purchases and make special allowances for families who have limited resources for cooking and food storage (for example, SNAP would allow you to purchase hot foods from a grocery store). Both agencies provide nutritional counseling, as well as food-preparation classes.

  • Your tribal or community wellness agency may provide nutritional counseling and special assistance in buying wholesome foods.

Here is one tribe’s answer to the problem of where to find fresh, affordable, local food: Oneida Community Integrated Food Systems

Some families find getting enough food to feed a family especially difficult. If you need assistance in finding food, please contact these helpful agencies:

 WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)

USA Federal food programs

Community food programs

Do I need to take a multivitamin to breastfeed?

Your body will use your stores of vitamins and minerals to ensure that your milk has exactly what your baby needs. Finishing the prescribed prenatal vitamin is usually enough to meet your own health requirements (Nutrition During Lactation, 1991). However, if your diet is high in processed foods, you eat fewer than 2700 calories per day, you avoid or limit certain food groups, or you have any health conditions that may limit how well your body absorbs nutrients or vitamins, nutrition counseling is recommended. Increasing your intake of certain foods and food groups is likely to provide a greater benefit than a supplement (Lawrence & Lawrence, 2011).

Even though you are able to produce high-quality breastmilk on a diet deficient in some nutrients, when you take in more vitamins and minerals through supplements and dietary changes, some of them also increase in your milk. If you take in more of vitamins A, D, B1, B2, B3, B6, or B12, your milk will have more of these vitamins as well. Fatty acid and iodine supplements may also influence quantities in your milk. (Valentine & Wagner, 2012).

If you are concerned that you or your baby may not be getting enough of all the vitamins you need, talk to your health-care provider. She may recommend simple testing or vitamin supplements. Breastfeeding is still best in these situations.

Do I have to eat certain foods or take supplements in order to produce enough milk?

 No. However, in some cultures it is customary to eat certain foods after the baby is born in order to promote milk production. Interestingly, many of these customary “mother foods” are packed with B vitamins, iron, calcium, protein, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help support lactation nutritionally. If your traditions recommend eating (or avoiding) certain foods after birth, you should feel encouraged to do so.

Sometimes mothers are told they need to take a certain herb, drink a commercial herbal tea, drink cow’s milk, eat oatmeal or oatmeal-based “lactation cookies”, or even drink one dark beer each night in order to produce enough milk. While most of the recommendations aren’t harmful, and some may even be beneficial from a nutritional standpoint, they aren’t likely to make or break your breastfeeding relationship. Milk production is controlled inside the breast, by the frequency and thoroughness of milk-removal. The best way to encourage your body to make all the milk your baby needs is to feed on demand.

 Please keep in mind that alcohol consumption should be limited while you are breastfeeding. Always talk to your health-care provider or traditional healer before taking any herbs or over the counter medications. If you are concerned about your milk production, talk to an IBCLC or other breastfeeding support specialist.

 Can I diet while breastfeeding?

 Reducing the number of calories you eat daily and avoiding desserts, sodas, chips, and other foods with “empty calories” will not cause your milk to lose nutritional value. Many mothers find that breastfeeding alone helps them lose the extra weight they gained during pregnancy. It is possible to lose additional weight through restricting calories while you are breastfeeding, but the current recommendation is that the diet not include fewer than 1800 calories per day (Lauwers & Swisher, 2011).

 Are there foods I should avoid while breastfeeding?

 The short answer is that there are no foods all mothers should avoid. Diets vary around the world, and so do the traditions of foods to eat or avoid while breastfeeding. Many experts recommend avoiding fish that are known to have high levels of mercury (tuna, swordfish, and others), foods like margarine that are high in trans fats, and foods that are common allergens like peanuts. However, the research on these topics is incomplete. Discuss any dietary restrictions you would like to make with your health care provider or IBCLC. It should be noted that milk-based formulas, including homemade formulas, contain trans fats (Mozaffarian et al., 2006; Satchithadandam et al., 2002; Ratnayake et al., 1997), and most formulas contain common allergens such as animal milk or soy proteins.

 I have heard that certain diets will make my milk much healthier for my baby. Should I still breastfeed if I don’t eat a traditional or natural-food diet?

 Definitely. While a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in processed foods is an ideal choice for your and your family’s health, breastfeeding always provides the best possible nutrition for your baby, even if your diet is not as wholesome as it should be. A mother eating a typical American diet and a mother eating a whole-food diet may have some different types of fat and slight differences in the levels of some vitamins in breast milk, but this variation is not as great as the nutritional difference between broccoli and candy. Your milk is still best, even if your diet is not.

I have heard that what I eat and drink goes into my milk–so if I eat french fries or drink soda, my baby gets the same fat and sugar through my milk?

 The old adage “you are what you eat” sounds catchy, but it is not helpful to breastfeeding mothers wondering if their milk is nutritious enough for their babies. Most of the nutrients found in your milk do not pass directly from your food to your blood to your milk–the process your body uses to produce breastmilk is much more complex. Many substances in the foods you eat are never found in your milk, while others can pass through. However, no matter how much junk food you eat, there is no evidence to support the idea that your milk is not the best available food for your baby.

 If my milk is still the best choice for my baby, why should I bother to try to make healthier food choices for myself?

 Your health is important, too! Breastfeeding helps protect you from diseases like breast cancer (Bartick & Reinhold, 2010; Stuebe, 2009), but your diet is also crucial in maintaining your health. Also, your baby will not be breastfeeding forever–he will soon learn to eat table foods, and he will want the same foods he sees on your plate. Now is the perfect time to begin making those changes in your diet which will help your baby learn to eat healthily, and the foods you eat will flavor your milk so he will grow accustomed to their tastes. Some first table foods for your baby are also great for you: sweet potatoes, avocados, bananas, beans, lean meats, and oatmeal are simple to prepare, easily mashed with a fork, and very nutritious. Fresh ingredients cost less than prepared baby foods and cereals, and they are free of added sugar and other unnecessary ingredients.

 All children benefit when their parents are healthy, and good health will allow you to have the energy and positive mood you need to meet the intense demands of motherhood.

 Is it true that you shouldn’t eat “gassy” foods like broccoli, onions, and beans while breastfeeding?

 Don’t worry! These vegetables are great choices for breastfeeding mothers. Even if they give you gas, the substances in them that can cause gas do not get into your milk.

 I am diabetic. If my blood sugar is high, will my milk have too much sugar?

 No–your body produces the main sugar in your milk, lactose, in the breast, and the amount of sugars in your milk remain fairly constant no matter how high the level of glucose in your blood may be (Dewey et al., 1991). Many mothers find that breastfeeding keeps their blood sugar lower than it was before they were breastfeeding, but if your blood sugar does get too high, do not worry about your milk–glucose only makes up a tiny percentage of all the sugars in breastmilk (Butte et al., 1987). However, if you have uncontrolled diabetes, you should seek treatment from your health-care provider as soon as possible for the sake of your own health.

 You may be happy to know that breastfeeding reduces the risk of your child’s developing both obesity and diabetes.

 I keep hearing conflicting advice about breastfeeding, and I am so confused! Where can I find the most accurate information?

 Breastfeeding is a hot topic in the media right now, and many people are eager to voice their opinions. Many mothers are unsure where to turn for answers. Fortunately, there are trained professionals who have access to high-quality research and can help. Find them here:

Guide to breastfeeding support professionals

Find a lactation consultant


 Balmer, S. E., & Wharton, B. A. (1989). Diet and faecal flora in the newborn: breast milk and

infant formula. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 64, 1672-1677

Bartick, M., & Reinhold, A. (2010). The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis. Pediatrics, Published online April 5, 2010. (doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-1616)

Butte, N. F., Garza, C., Burr, R., Goldman, A. S., Kennedy, K., & Kitzmiller, J. L. (1987). Milk composition of insulin-dependent diabetic women. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr., 6 (6), 936-41.

Cruz-Hernandez, C., Goeuriot, S., Guiffrida, F., Thakkar, S. K., & Destaillats, F. (2013). Direct quantification of fatty acids in human milk by gas chromatography. J Chromatogr A. 1284,174-9. (doi: 10.1016/j.chroma.2013.01.094).

Dewey, K. G., Heinig, M. J., Nommsen, L. M., & Lonnerdal, B. (1991). Maternal Versus Infant Factors Related to Breast Milk Intake and Residual Milk Volume: The DARLING Study. Pediatrics, 87(6), 829 -837.

Friesen, R., & Innis, S. M. (2006). Trans fatty acids in human milk in Canada declined with the introduction of trans fat food labeling. J Nutr., 136 (10), 2558-61. Source: The Nutrition Research Program, Child and Family Research Institute, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V5Z 4H4.

Hassiotou, F., Geddes, D. T., & Hartmann, P. E. (2013). Cells in Human Milk: State of the Science. J Hum Lact., [Epub ahead of print]

Host, A. (1994). Cow’s milk protein allergy and intolerance in infancy. Some clinical, epidemiological and immunological aspects. Pediatr Allergy Immunol., 5(5 Suppl), 1-36.

Innis, S. M. * Kuhnlein, H. V. (1988). Long-chain n-3 fatty acids in breast milk of Inuit women consuming traditional foods. Early Human Development, 18(203), 185–189.

 Lauwers, J. & Swisher, A. (2011) Maternal health and nutrition. In Counseling the Nursing Mother (5th ed., p. 171). Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: Jones and Bartlett.

 Lawrence, R. A. & Lawrence, R. A. (2011). Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, 7th Edition. Elsevior. Maryland Heights, MO.

Mevissen-Verhage, E. A., Marcelis, J. H., Harmsen-Van Amerongen, W. C., de Vos, N. M., & Verhoef, J. (1985).  Effect of iron on neonatal gut flora during the first three months of life. Eur J Clin Microbiol., 4(3), 273-8.

 Mozaffarian, D., Katan, M. B., Ascherio, A., Stampfer, M. J., & Willett, W. C. (2006). Trans Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease. N Engl J Med, 354, 1601-1613. (DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra054035)

Power, K. A., Yan, Q., Fox, E. M., Cooney, S., & Fanning, S. (2013). Genome Sequence of Cronobacter sakazakii SP291, a Persistent Thermotolerant Isolate Derived from a Factory Producing Powdered Infant Formula. Genome Announc 1(2), e0008213. doi:10.1128/genomeA.00082-13

Ratnayake, W. M., Chardigny, J. M., Wolff, R. L., Bayard, C. C., Sebedio, J. L., & Martine, L. (1997).  Essential fatty acids and their trans geometrical isomers in powdered and liquid infant formulas sold in Canada. J Pediatr Gadtroenterol Nutr., 25(4), 400-7.

Riordan, J. & Wambauch, K. (2010). Nutritional values. In Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (4th ed., pp. 125-7). Mississauga, Ontario, Canada: Jones and Bartlett.

Satchithanandam, S., Fritsche, J., & Rader, J. I. (2002). Gas chromatographic analysis of infant formulas for total fatty acids, including trans fatty acids. J AOAC Int., 85(1), 86-94.

Savilahti, E. M., Saarinen, K. M., & Savilahti, E. (2010). Specific antibodies to cow’s milk proteins in infants: effect of early feeding and diagnosis of cow’s milk allergy. Eur J Nutr., 49(8), 501-4. (doi: 10.1007/s00394-010-0109-8). Epub 2010 Apr 20.

 Stuebe, A. (2009). The Risks of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers and Infants. Rev Obstet Gynecol, 2(4), 222–231. PMCID: PMC2812877 [PubMed]

 “1 Summary, Conclusions, and Recommendations.” Nutrition During Lactation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1991.

 Valentine, C. J., & Wagner, C. L. (2012). Nutritional management of the breastfeeding dyad. Pediatr Clin North Am., 60 (1), 261-74. (doi: 10.1016/j.pcl.2012.10.008)

Virtanen, S. M., Saukkonen, T., Savilahti, E., Ylonen, K., Rasanen, L. Aro, A., Knip, M., Tupmilehto, J., & Akerblom, H. K. (1994). Diet, cow’s milk protein antibodies and the risk of IDDM in Finnish children. Childhood Diabetes in Finland Study Group. Diebetologia, 37(4), 381-7.

 Wasmuth, H. E., & Kolb, H. (2000). Cow’s milk and immune-mediated diabetes. Proc Nutr Soc., 59(4), 573-9.

Whitney, E., Debruyne. L. K., Pinna, K. & Rolfes, S. R. (2011). The body’s energy budget. In Nutrition for Health and Health Care (4th ed., pp. 143-44). Belmont: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

© Adrienne Uphoff, IBCLC and Jolie Black Bear, IBCLC 2013–All Rights Reserved

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The Alphabet Soup of Breastfeeding Support

Because breastfeeding can have a positive lifelong effect on your baby’s health and development as well as your own health, its importance is widely recognized in the health-care field. However, many mothers find themselves unsure where to turn for help or information when problems related to breastfeeding arise. New mothers may be especially overwhelmed by the volume of information that is shared with them or confused by conflicting advice given by different caregivers. This article presents a guide to the different types of breastfeeding support specialists you may seek out or encounter as you begin your breastfeeding journey.

Your family, friends, and community may influence your decision to breastfeed and will be an important source of support after your baby arrives. Sometimes you simply need a little encouragement, a nutritious meal (that you didn’t have to prepare), or the company of a friend to keep you going through breastfeeding challenges. Your partner, mother, grandmother, auntie, friend, or even a stranger on the internet can help you find information you need or offer “been there, done that” advice. If you need more specialized information, help, or connection to the social support of a breastfeeding group in your community, trained breastfeeding specialists are available to fill the need.

There are many different training programs available to the aspiring breastfeeding support specialist or volunteer. The resulting “alphabet soup” of initials can be downright confusing, even for people who work with breastfeeding moms! Understanding what the initials stand for, as well as what training, education, and experience is required to earn them, may help you choose whom to call if you need breastfeeding help and support.


Professional Fellowship and Certification

Professional fellowship and certification requires post high school education, including health education that provides an understanding of whole body systems and how they affect lactation. Professionals perform clinical evaluations of breastfeeding and create and oversee a plan of care, which may involve more than one type of health-care provider. One factor that sets professionals apart is the requirement to follow an ethical code of conduct overseen by the organization that provides the fellowship or certification.

Breastfeeding Medicine Specialist (Fellow of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine–FABM)

Breastfeeding Medicine Specialists are Medical Doctors (MD or DO) who have completed additional training in breastfeeding and human lactation and specialize in this field. They are able to treat complicated breastfeeding issues that require evaluation by a physician such as failure to thrive (a baby not gaining weight, not growing as expected), tongue tie, breast abscess, low milk production that is not resolved by more frequent nursing/expressing, and breast or nipple infections. They are also able to assist with common and ordinary breastfeeding problems as well as concerns that relate to the normal course of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Medicine Specialists often work in either private or group physician practices. They may work entirely in the field of breastfeeding medicine or use their breastfeeding expertise while working in another medical speciality such as obstetrics, pediatrics, or family medicine. Most often, mothers are referred to FABMs by an IBCLC or another physician who recognized an issue that required their expertise. As with most physicians, however, mothers may self-refer.

Education and experience:

An applicant must have completed the required education and training to become a physician, additional education in lactation science and management, as well as the required clinical experience hours working directly with breastfeeding mother-baby pairs.

Breastfeeding Medicine Specialists are recognized by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine to have “demonstrated evidence of advanced knowledge and skills in the fields of breastfeeding and human lactation. FABM denotes that the physician has ongoing specialized professional activities related to clinical expertise, research or teaching experience, and/or significant advocacy efforts in the field of breastfeeding medicine.” See the full reference here. Breastfeeding Medicine Specialists must apply to maintain their fellowship every 10 years.

Breastfeeding Medicine Specialists can:

  • make a medical diagnosis
  • prescribe medication
  • order and perform medical testing
  • perform medical procedures

Find a Breastfeeding Medicine Specialist:

Currently, a publicly accessible database is not available. You may call the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and ask how to contact the closest Breastfeeding Medicine Specialist to you.

Contact information: Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine


International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC)

Certification by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) is recognized as the gold standard credential for professionals who work with breastfeeding mothers.

IBCLCs are allied health professionals who have completed extensive, comprehensive education in breastfeeding and human lactation, education in health sciences and related subjects, and the required hours of supervised clinical experience. By passing the IBLCE exam, they have demonstrated they are qualified to work with breastfeeding mother and baby pairs as clinicians. IBCLCs can help mothers overcome common breastfeeding difficulties such as sore nipples, mastitis, and milk production concerns. They can also provide assistance with more complex issues, such as breastfeeding with illness or disability, low weight gain, and tongue tie. IBCLCs also help with concerns related to the normal course of breastfeeding (sleep, returning to work or school, etc.).

IBCLCs may work in private practice, group practices, hospitals, birth centers, health clinics, parenting centers, WIC clinics, physician practices, midwives practices, chiropractic practices, or multi-faceted practices such as perinatal clinics. They are part of the maternal-child health team and coordinate care with physicians and other health-care professionals. Additionally, IBCLCs may work in research, advocacy (including policy-making), non-profit management, or as volunteers. IBCLC is a stand alone credential, though many practicing IBCLCs are also licensed professionals such as physicians, registered nurses, or registered dietitians.

Education and experience*:

At least 90 hours of education specific to breastfeeding and human lactation

At least 1000 hours of supervised clinical experience working with mother and baby pairs, or 300-500 hours of directly supervised clinical experience with a mentor

A degree in one of the health sciences OR completion of the following courses:

  • Biology
  •  Nutrition
  • Human Anatomy
  • Psychology or Counseling or Communication Skills
  • Human Physiology
  • Introduction to Research or Statistics
  • Infant and Child Growth and Development
  • Sociology or Cultural Sensitivity or Cultural Anthropology
  • Basic life support
  • Medical terminology
  • Medical documentation
  • Occupational safety and security for health professionals
  • Professional ethics for health professionals
  • Universal safety precautions and infection control

(*Source: International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners Candidate Information Guide 2013)

The eligibility requirements above were implemented in 2012. Please note that these requirements have changed several times since the exam was first administered in 1985.  See this presentation from IBLCE for full details. Depending on which year an IBCLC took the exam, and which pathway was taken, the candidate was required to acquire between 1000-8000 supervised clinical experience hours or 300-500 clinical experience hours that were directly supervised by an IBCLC mentor before applying for the exam. It is also of note that many candidates have more lactation-specific education hours than required at the time of application not only because they attend conferences and webinars earning Continuing Education Recognition Points (CERPs) while working towards eligibility, but also because it takes many hours to cover all the topics in the exam blueprint. For example, one of the most popular comprehensive education programs available to IBCLC hopefuls is the 120-hour Health e-Learning BreastEd course.

The IBLCE exam contains 175  multiple choice questions of which 100 include clinical photos. The exam covers all aspects of breastfeeding and human lactation as well as related topics such as child development, pharmacology, nutrition, anatomy and physiology, and ethics.  All IBCLCs must recertify every five years by CERPs (a total of 75 hours) and at least every 10 years by exam.

IBLCE is the only certification program in lactation accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies.  The NCAA is a regulatory body that provides volunteer oversight for allied health professions.

IBCLCs  can:

  • take a complete lactation history including evaluating breast anatomy and function and assessing factors related to breastfeeding such as maternal condition, social support, and potential challenges
  • assess the baby’s facial and oral structure and evaluate neurological responses and reflexes
  • assess for developmental milestones and normal infant behavior
  • perform a comprehensive, clinical evaluation of breastfeeding efficiency and effectiveness including assessing latch/attachment, milk transfer, and milk intake
  • assist the mother to find comfortable and effective positions for breastfeeding
  • assess the mother’s milk production and provide education  and assistance regarding  adjusting milk volume if necessary
  • use the appropriate World Health Organization growth chart to assess the breastfeeding child’s weight and growth patterns
  • evaluate and demonstrate the use of breastfeeding techniques and devices and provide evidence-based information to mothers about their use
  • write a comprehensive evaluation of a mother’s lactation history and breastfeeding assessment and work with the mother to develop and implement an appropriate and achievable breastfeeding plan
  • assess and provide strategies for initiation and continuation of breastfeeding in challenging circumstances such as a medical condition in mother or baby, compromised lactation, or emergency situation
  • provide information and strategies for overcoming breastfeeding challenges such as painful nipples, mastitis, and engorgement
  • empower mothers and families with information, support, and appropriate referrals to help them cope with peripartum mood disorders
  • educate mothers and families about normal baby behavior including signs of hunger and expected feeding and sleep patterns
  • provide current, unbiased, evidence-based information to assist the mother in decision making
  • obtain the mother’s consent to gather and disclose information and written assessments to pertinent health care providers

 Find an IBCLC:

  • ILCA: Find a Lactation Consultant Directory-IBCLCs who are also members of the International Lactation Consultant Association may choose to have their contact information listed on this page. Due to that limitation, it may not be a comprehensive listing of all IBCLCs in your area.

  • Department of Public Health or WIC breastfeeding resource directory-Search your state Health Department or WIC website for this valuable listing of breastfeeding support resources in your community. It is usually updated annually.

  • Search-Most IBCLCs in private or group practice have a website and/or a Facebook page that is searchable using a web search engine such as Google or Bing. Searching for IBCLCs in a specific city or geographic region may help you narrow down the results. (For example “IBCLC New York, NY” or “IBCLC Bay Area CA.”)

  • Word of mouth and referrals-If you need the services of an IBCLC, you can ask your physician, nurse, or nutritionist for a referral. Your insurance company may have a referral list of  IBCLCs that are covered under your plan. You may also find recommendations from from other women through parenting groups, breastfeeding support groups or meet-ups, and online groups.

 More info:

Clinical Competencies for the Practice of International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs)

Scope of Practice for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants

Position Paper on the Role and Impact of the IBCLC


Mother-to-Mother Support

Experienced mothers are trained in basic breastfeeding management, modeling optimal breastfeeding practices, and sharing (or facilitating the sharing of) information and experiences with pregnant and breastfeeding women individually and in group settings.  Mother-to-mother support gives mothers the opportunity to talk with other women about their concerns in a way that might not otherwise be possible in today’s world. Women are empowered to explore options that are the foundation of a personally satisfying breastfeeding experience. Mothers often find it easier to share their concerns with other mothers; this mutual sharing of experiences and information builds trust and respect. Mother-to-mother support has the following benefits:

  • It is community-based and easy to access.
  • It provides an essential complement to existing health care and social services systems.
  • It counters incorrect or misleading breastfeeding information with accurate, evidence-based information.
  • It enables and empowers mothers to make informed choices about breastfeeding and parenting.
  • It provides a social outlet for mothers (group meetings).

WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor (WIC BFPC or WIC PC)

Through the federal Women, Infants, and Children program, WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors provide mothers with breastfeeding information and support from pregnancy through weaning. During pregnancy, they visit with mothers by phone and in person to provide them with basic breastfeeding information, answer questions, and offer anticipatory guidance to help make breastfeeding easier. After a mother’s baby is born, her BFPC will continue to make regular contact with her, answer her questions, and offer practical suggestions to help her reach her breastfeeding goals. Depending on the policies of her state or tribal program, BFPCs may also facilitate support groups, teach breastfeeding classes, dispense breastpumps, certify participants for the WIC program, and make home or hospital visits.

Personal experience:

Breastfed for at least 6 months, WIC participant

Education and training:

20-hour on-site training  that covers all aspects of the normal course of breastfeeding and human lactation as well as communication skills. Training activities include role play and demonstration of necessary skills including assisting moms with using common breastfeeding tools and equipment (such as breastpumps).

Continuing Education:

1 hour per month minimum; additional requirements vary by state

More info:

Who are Breastfeeding Peer Counselors, and what do they do?

Volunteer Breastfeeding Counselors

The following volunteer organizations offer one-to-one breastfeeding counseling (which may include online or text communication and home visits), group meetings, and online resources. Counselors are educated and mentored within the organization before beginning to work with mothers. They may be supported by a network of professionals in the field of lactation that works as a sounding board for complicated situations.

La Leche League Leader (LLLL)

Personal experience:

Breastfed for at least 9 months at time of application; Please see additional requirements here.

Education and training:

Applicants must complete required reading, writing exercises, and role play which covers all aspects of the normal course of breastfeeding and human lactation, as well as communication skills.  For full details, please see here.

Continuing Education:

Leaders are expected to keep up-to-date and are strongly encouraged to continue their education. Proof of completion is not required. To fill the need for continuing education, Chapters, Area Networks, and Regions regularly provide education opportunities such as seminars, conferences, lunch and learns, as well as informative publications such as Leaven and newsletters.

More info:

How can I become a LLL Leader?

About La Leche League

Breastfeeding USA Counselor (BfUSA Counselor)


Breastfed for at least 1 year at time of application.

Education and Training:

Training varies based on experience. Includes reading, online training activities, and role playing.

Continuing Education:

Minimal number of credits every 3 years

More info:

Becoming a Breastfeeding Counselor

 Nursing Mothers Counsel Counselor (NMC Counselor)

Requirements vary by chapter.  Please see the chapter website for specific information.

Nursing Mothers Counsel (California)

BACE: Nursing Mothers’ Council

Nursing Mothers Counsel (Oregon)

Certificate Programs

The following programs offer similar preparation to individuals who may provide mothers with information about the normal course of breastfeeding and basic breastfeeding support. After completion, they will be prepared to:


  • answer questions about common breastfeeding concerns such as prevention of sore nipples, preparing for return to work or school, and milk production issues
  • offer practical tips for helping mothers fit breastfeeding into their lifestyle
  • provide anticipatory guidance about common breastfeeding situations and problems
  • provide education to help mothers prepare to breastfeed or return to work or school
  • recognize when breastfeeding is going well and when more help is needed
  • recognize when a breastfeeding issue is beyond their scope of practice and refer to the appropriate professionals.Many certificate program graduates use their education in their occupations as nurses, nutritionists, midwives, labor doulas, postpartum doulas, baby boutique and pump rental station employees, or WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors. Some work as part of a group practice, usually with an IBCLC as the lead, while others start businesses to support women in their communities directly.

Certification vs. Certificate Programmes:  What’s the Difference? 
Practice Analyses

Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC)


Healthy Children’s Project, Inc

Exam, certificate, and renewal administered by Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice, a division of Healthy Children’s Project, Inc. The ALPP certificate is accredited by the American National Standards Institute.  ANSI accreditation means that the testing process of the certificate program has been found to be fair, valid, and reliable.


5 day on-site breastfeeding education (45 credit hours), role play, competency check (example: watch a short video and describe what action the CLC would take) and pass a 100 question exam with 75% or better immediately after program; Program information

Renewal: Every 3 years with 18 hours of breastfeeding education, plus required fee

Advanced Lactation Consultant (ALC) and Advanced Nurse Lactation Consultant (ANLC)


Healthy Children’s Project, Inc (please see CLC listing above)


45 hour course; Program information

Prerequisites: RN license and CLC or IBCLC 

Prerequisite: CLC or IBCLC 

 Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS)


Lactation Education Consultants


5 day on-site education and training (45 credit hours), complete assigned homework and readings, and pass final exam immediately after program; Program information



Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC)


Childbirth International


Mentored online training, required reading and exercises, create portfolio of local breastfeeding resources, provide 30 hours of breastfeeding support, and complete final open book exam; Program information



Breastfeeding Counselor (BC)


Breastfeeding Support Consultants Center for Lactation


Distance learning course (95 hours), read required text, complete study questions and role plays, and pass final exam; Program information



The following certificate programs prepare candidates to provide breastfeeding education rather than support. Please see the program requirements and accompanying documents for more details, including the scope of practice of the certificated educators for each program.

Certified Lactation Educator (CLE) 


Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA)


Complete all assignments and read all required texts/books, write one-page essay, attend 20-hour training (a distance track is also available), attend 2 breastfeeding support group meetings, attend 1 breastfeeding class,  submit 2 letters of recommendation, develop breastfeeding class outlines and handouts, create local breastfeeding resource list for families, complete part 1 of HUG your baby training, and pass final online exam with 85% or better; Program information


Every 3 years with 15 hours of breastfeeding education, required evaluations, reports, reviews, and fee. Details

Lactation Educator (LE)


Evergreen Perinatal Education


5 day on-site education and training (45 hours), written breastfeeding project (homework), write study guide on breast anatomy and physiology, participate in quizzes, case studies and role plays, evaluate program; Program information



Lactation Educator Counselor (LEC)


University of California at San Diego Extension: Breastfeeding Education by Gini Baker, RN, MPH, IBCLC


5 day on-site education and training (45 hours) or online (60 hours). Complete assignments including internet resource, nutrition, clinical, and counseling problems, review 4 research studies, observe a breastfeeding class, develop breastfeeding class curriculum, read required text, satisfactorily complete periodic testing; Program information




For more information about, and a comparison of, the various breastfeeding support specialists in the USA please see The Landscape of Breastfeeding Support by the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.

Finger Lakes-  Ganondagan’s Native American Dance and Music Festival - Ontario

Because of the immense importance of breastfeeding to both individuals and public health, it is imperative that our communities support and empower mothers both to initiate breastfeeding after birth and to continue breastfeeding as long as desired, ideally through the first year and beyond.

While it is helpful for mothers and community members to be aware of the diversity in breastfeeding specialists, these practitioners only represent one part of the larger picture of essential support for mothering. Breastfeeding specialists, community advocates, and health-care providers must work together with families in order to ensure that women have access to the accurate, evidence-based information and support they need to develop and meet their own breastfeeding goals.


 Thank you to all the colleagues and friends who shared information to make this resource as comprehensive as possible. Special thanks to Adrienne Uphoff, IBCLC for her time and patience while editing and updating this article, as well as for the generous gift of her wordsmithing wizardry.



© Jolie Black Bear, IBCLC 2012– All Rights Reserved

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