Benefits of Breastfeeding

Mother_Breast_feedingBREAST MILK BENEFITS FOR MOM AND BABY
“Breast milk is the ideal food for babies. It has the vitamins, protein and fat that a baby needs to grow. It’s easy to digest, contains antibodies that help the baby fight off illnesses and lowers the baby’s risk for having asthma, allergies and becoming obese,” says Dr. Bixby, CHOC’s medical director of lactation services. Babies exclusively breastfed for the first six months also tend to have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, Dr. Bixby says. Plus, breastfeeding helps mom and baby bond. The American
Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the World Health Organization all strongly recommend breastfeeding. And, it’s free!

BENEFITS OF DONOR MILK
In the case where a mom can’t produce or sustain her own milk supply, for whatever reason, donor human milk is an excellent alternative to a mother’s breast milk or formula, says Dr. Bixby. “Donor milk isn’t as good as the mother’s own milk but it’s way better than formula, especially for preterm babies or those with gastrointestinal or digestive issues that make it harder for the baby to digest food. Breast milk is designed to help move the gut better. It is a limited resource so at CHOC, we mostly use donor milk for preterm babies under 32 weeks old and also at times for some of our surgical patients.”

LACTATION SERVICES AT CHOC
CHOC’s Clinical Nutrition and Lactation Services department seeks to be a helpful source of nutrition and lactation information for patients, their families and the community. Individualized, family-centered and culturally sensitive lactation care is part of CHOC’s interdisciplinary approach to healthcare and wellness. CHOC has board-certified lactation consultants on hand to help patients who are breastfeeding or receiving donor breast milk. For information about inpatient lactation services at CHOC, call (714) 509-8455.

FAST FACTS

  • Percentage of infants in California who were breastfed in 2013: 91.6
  • Percentage of infants nationwide breastfed at 6 months (infants born in 2010) – up from 35% of infants born in 2000: 49%

View the full feature on Babies and Breastfeeding

Dr. Bixby
Dr. Christine Bixby
CHOC Neonatologist

PHYSICIAN FOCUS: DR. CHRISTINE E. BIXBY

Dr. Bixby is CHOC’s medical director of lactation services. Dr. Bixby completed her fellowship in neonatology at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and also completed her residency and internship training in pediatrics at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. She completed a fellowship in neonatology in a joint program between CHOC and Harbor UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Bixby specializes in caring for premature infants and is involved in research studies focusing on issues related to breast milk, establishing a milk supply and using breast milk for premature babies.

Dr. Bixby’s philosophy of care: “My philosophy of care is to bring in the parents and family as part of the healthcare team and making sure they are educated and  comfortable with the care we are giving their children.”

EDUCATION:
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

More about Dr. Christine Bixby

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on July 7, 2014, and was written by Amy Bentley.

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Donating Breast Milk to CHOC

CHOC Children’s has long relied on donated pasteurized breast milk to help provide the best nutrition to infants receiving care in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

And starting this summer, CHOC is initiating a breast milk donation service that CHOC_Breastmilk_bankwill allow women to donate extra breast milk in the name of CHOC.

Under the program, women pump milk at home, freeze it and send it to a third-party company, Prolacta Bioscience, for processing and safety testing. After pasteurizing and standardizing, Prolacta sends the finished product to CHOC.

Under the program, CHOC will be able to maintain an adequate supply of donor milk, regardless of the how many local women donate, says Dr. Christine Bixby, a CHOC neonatologist.

“CHOC was probably one of the earliest adopters of using donor milk in our preterm population,” she says. “The trend is to use donor milk and this is approaching a standard of care where if you do not have maternal milk, you use donor milk for the preterm babies.”

Dr. Bixby hopes that the new program will help encourage more women to donate milk, especially because they know their milk will help babies in their local community.

“There are a lot of people who don’t know what to do with their extra milk,” she says. “So, any moms who have too much milk can look into donating it, rather than throwing it out. These babies can really benefit from the donor milk and it’s a limited resource. This would be a great gift.”

Medical experts have found that donor human milk is an excellent alternative to a mother’s breast milk, and that premature babies tolerate donated human milk better than formula.

“The data is quite strong in the use of a human milk-based diet,” says Dr. Bixby.  “There’s a lot about breast milk that is so much better than formula.”

Learn more about our breast milk donation program.

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Parents and Preemies

premature_babyHELPING PREEMIES GROW
A premature or preterm baby is born before 37 weeks of gestation. Preemies often require hospitalization but mom can help her preemie from day one, says Dr. Bixby, a CHOC Neonatologist. “Early on, the best way for a preemie to grow is with the mother’s milk. Moms can start pumping in the hospital and should start pumping as soon as possible after delivery. We also have found that having the parents place the infant on their chests, skin to skin (called “kangaroo care”) helps the baby grow, breathe better and develop better.” Parents should ask their neonatologist and pediatrician about medical issues to watch for as their preemie grows. Keeping up with standard vaccinations and special vaccinations for preemies is also important, says Dr. Bixby.  Parents should also keep up with their vaccinations, particularly influenza and pertussis vaccines, which will protect the baby until the babies immune system has matured and the standard vaccines are completed.

DEVELOPMENTAL MILESTONES
“Premature infants are at risk for developmental delays so parents should be watchful of the developmental milestones, taking into account the appropriate delay from an early birth,” says Dr. Bixby. Preemies visit CHOC’s Early Developmental Assessment Clinic at 6 months of age for a full assessment of the baby’s development and nutritional needs and a referral to the appropriate specialist if necessary, she said, adding, “Parents and families should create a loving and engaging home environment so the baby is encouraged to move around and reach for things and interact with the world and learn.”

PREVENTING PRETERM DELIVERY
Pregnant women are encouraged to seek prenatal care as soon as possible to help prevent a premature delivery and to identify any potential problems that could lead to a preterm birth, says Dr. Bixby. “Pregnant women should see their family practice doctor or obstetrician regularly and get a referral to a specialist if there are concerns about the pregnancy. Good dental care helps too. Research shows that dental disease or poor dentition is associated with preterm delivery. Mom should take care of herself, get some exercise in consultation with your obstetrician and eat well.”

FAST FACTS

    • Annual cost to society for premature births: $26 Billion+
    • Percent increase over the last 25 years in premature births in the U.S.: 36
    • Number of premature babies born each year in the U.S. (1 IN 9 BABIES): 500,000

View the full feature on Parents and Preemies

Dr. Christine Bixby
Dr. Christine Bixby
CHOC Neonatologist

PHYSICIAN FOCUS: Dr. Christine Bixby

Dr. Bixby completed her fellowship in neonatology at Harbor UCLA Medical Center and also completed her residency and internship training in pediatrics at Harbor UCLA Medical Center. She completed a fellowship in neonatology in a joint program between CHOC and Harbor UCLA Medical Center. Dr. Bixby specializes in caring for premature infants and is involved in research studies focusing on issues related to breast milk, establishing a milk supply and using breast milk for premature babies.

Dr. Bixby’s philosophy of care: “My philosophy of care is to bring in the parents and family as part of the health care team and making sure they are educated and comfortable with the care we are giving their children.”

EDUCATION:
University of California, Davis, School of Medicine

BOARD CERTIFICATIONS:
Pediatrics Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine

More about Dr. Christine Bixby

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on April 28, 2104, and was written by Amy Bentley.

Breastfeeding Premature Infants

breastfeeding_preemiesParents of premature infants face many new challenges as they help their special infant grow and flourish, and breastfeeding is often one of them.

“Breastfeeding a preemie is possible but the exclusive breastfeeding of a baby, especially the earlier premature babies, is not always nutritionally appropriate,” says Dr. Christine Bixby, a CHOC Children’s neonatologist who specializes in caring for premature infants.

There’s rarely a case where a premature baby can’t get some breast milk, she says. For example, in CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), nurses add powdered formula to breast milk to increase the nutrient levels.

“The breast milk is the best base, so we add some nutrients and that helps the baby grow,” says Dr. Bixby, who is involved in research studies focusing on issues related to breast milk, establishing a milk supply and using breast milk for premature babies.

Mothers of premature babies often have difficulty producing milk or sustaining production, Dr. Bixby says.

“Oftentimes moms are unable to make milk early in the process or sustain it, which given the prematurity of their baby, isn’t surprising,” Dr. Bixby says.

So, while the baby is at CHOC, lactation consultants and other specialists are available to help and encourage a mother to pump, if possible. The best way for a mother of a premature baby to establish a milk supply is to begin pumping as early as possible, ideally within six hours of delivery, she says. The mother should attempt to pump regularly, which physicians understand can be challenging when her baby is in the NICU.

For early feedings, donor human milk is an excellent alternative to a mother’s breast milk. CHOC purchases breast milk from a milk bank to offer babies whose mothers cannot produce milk, Dr. Bixby says. Milk donors are tested and the banked milk is completely safe, she adds.

Specialized formulas are also available for later feedings and following discharge. These both provide extra nutrients to help older premature babies grow, Dr. Bixby says.

“If the milk doesn’t come, regardless of why, it’s not worth dwelling on it,” she says. “Parents should ask their doctor about the best formula available and focus on creating a nurturing and loving environment for their baby.”

Related articles:

  • Meet Dr. Christine Bixby
    CHOC Children’s wants its patients and families to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Christine Bixby, a neonatologist. She completed a fellowship in neonatology, as well as her ...
  • World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7
    By Joanne DeMarchi, MA, RD, IBCLC, lactation consultant at CHOC Children’s In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), below are some helpful guidelines for working moms who wish to breastfeed. WBW is celebrated ...
  • Thank You, Nursing Mothers!
    Another group of people I am extremely grateful for are the community’s nursing mothers, who can also help the babies receiving care at CHOC. Under CHOC’s breast milk donation service, women ...