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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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.”

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Caring For The Smallest Patients

annual-report-2013-caring-for-the-smallest-patients

When she would check in at the front desk to visit her prematurely born twin girls in the new CHOC Children’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at St. Joseph Hospital, Mary Aguilar typically would be greeted with expressions of concern from hospital employees.

Aguilar would respond, “Actually, it’s cool up there.  I never feel like I’m going to a sad place.”

“Up there” is the 13-bed, CHOC Children’s-staffed-and-licensed Level IIB neonatal intensive care unit that, since opening Feb. 11, 2013, has been making life a lot easier for mothers, families and their newborns at CHOC’s adult hospital neighbor—and their newborns who need specialized care.

Aguilar’s girls, Lily and Ella, born just shy of 32 weeks, were among the first patients and the first set of twins to be cared for in the CHOC NICU at St. Joseph Hospital, whose opening coincided with a new mother-baby unit at St. Joseph.

Never far from mom

The NICU, staffed by a team of CHOC neonatal experts, is designed for newborns with low to moderate medical needs—typically, premature babies suffering from respiratory and circulatory problems. Newborns needing a higher level of critical care are sent to CHOC’s 54-bed NICU, located in the CHOC North patient care tower.

Lacy Pester, BSN, RNC-NIC and clinical manager of the CHOC NICU at St. Joseph Hospital said that prior to the opening of the new NICU, it sometimes was inconvenient for mothers to have to make the trip to CHOC’s NICU.  At nights, if there were no volunteers available to accompany them, mothers were not allowed to make the trek, Pester said. No longer.

Now new mothers like Aguilar are only steps away and can visit their babies easily.

The NICU provides accommodations for parents after a mother’s discharge as well.

For 27 days, Lily and Ella—who both weighed around 3½ pounds at birth—were cared for by a team of newborn intensive care nurses, respiratory therapists and physicians who relied on sophisticated monitoring equipment to closely follow their vital functions around the clock, including heartbeat, respiratory status, temperature and blood pressure.The girls got the Twin Room—the only two-bed room among the 12 rooms that make up the new NICU.

Choosing to have her babies at St. Joseph Hospital was easy for Aguilar. Her mother worked there as a security guard in the 1980s and her grandmother was a housekeeper in the emergency department. When her twins arrived early, Aguilar was grateful to hear that her babies would be receiving care in the new NICU.

annual-report-2013-caring-for-the-smallest-patients-2“I was excited, thinking we would have more privacy and our own nurse,” Aguilar says. “It was fantastic. We were in the corner of the unit and everything happened in one room. I loved it.”

Lanky Lily, kind of silly and prone to making pterodactyl noises, and chunky Ella, a happy baby with a sweet disposition, now are healthy babies closing in on 20 pounds. Aguilar, who lives with her husband, Ramon, and their twins in Corona, credits the expert team of neonatal specialists at the CHOC NICU at St. Joseph Hospital, including Christine E. Bixby, M.D., with her babies’ health.

“They always had the girls’ best interests in mind,” Aguilar said. “They are all very loving people. I feel like all the care they received helped set up my girls for success.”

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