International Breastfeeding Conference sneak peek: Stress, Ecology and Human Milk Biology and Lactation

Human milk and breastfeeding are the biological norms for baby and mother. The introduction of artificial feeding puts the dyad at risk for health problems throughout their lives.

In Unraveling Breast Milk, University of California, Davis food science professor J. Bruce German calls breastfeeding the “ideal evolutionary model for what nourishment should be.”

New and exciting data validating this ideal evolutionary model continues to be collected and published leaving us with the opportunity to advance maternal child health and ultimately the overall health of our nation.

MAUREENDr. Maureen Groer, PhD, RN, FAAN is a nurse/physiologist with over 35 years of interest and experience in biobehavioral research with an emphasis on psychoneuroimmunological mechanisms. Groer has over 60 publications in referred journals, has authored several textbooks, is on the editorial board of Biological Research for Nursing and is an elected member to the board of the International Society for Research on Human Milk and Lactation.

Participants at Healthy Children’s upcoming 18th International Breastfeeding Conference will have the privilege of engaging with Groer as she presents “Stress, Ecology, and Human Milk Biology and Lactation.” She will review research on the immunobiology of preterm milk and neonatal outcomes, the differences between preterm and term milk, and possible factors that regulate these differences. [Retrieved from: http://www.centerforbreastfeeding.org/PDFs/2014%20International%20Conference%20Flyer.pdf]

Groer will discuss the stress and lactation studies being conducted in her lab in both term and preterm mothers and how lactation is a natural stress reducer and may ultimately be why lactating women have healthier, lifelong outcomes than mothers who do not breastfeed.

“It is clear that the more we look biologically, the more amazing we find breast milk to be,” Groer says. “We have found that breastfeeders compared to formula feeders across the postpartum are different in many ways: less depression, less stress perception, different immunology.”

Groer continues that she and her colleagues recently published a paper in the Journal of Women’s Health describing their findings that exclusive breastfeeders have lower blood pressures and heart rates and may have longer telomeres. Data concerning longer telomeres is still being analyzed.

While we know that lactation can be a natural stress reducer, a common myth continues to  circulate: women under stress will not produce enough milk for her baby.

“All women are under stress in the first few months after birth, but breastfeeders have a better ability to handle stress due in part to hormonal differences,” Groer explains.

She mentions her many trips to Africa where women have no trouble producing milk despite their highly stressful lifestyles.

“Stress can sometimes be a good thing too,” she adds. Where distress may cause pain, severe sorrow and anxiety, eustress may offer a mother motivation.

Groer says she hopes conference participants will reflect on the exciting new findings related to the milk microbiome as a pioneer population to populate the infant gut which she will also cover during her presentation.

“This is one of my favorite conferences because of the diversity of interests and occupations in the group and the clearly passionate interests of the group in all aspects of breastfeeding and lactation.”

For more information about how to register for the International Breastfeeding Conference, please click here.

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