Bridging gaps

It has been reported that takes an average of 17 years for research evidence to translate into clinical practice.

Dr. Young nurses her son
Dr. Young nurses her son

Dissatisfied by this phenomenon, clinical researcher at the University of Colorado Dr. Bridget Young, PhD, CLC writes on her website:

Working for the last decade in academic research, I have always found it frustrating that advances in medical knowledge often remain locked away in those ivory towers and not translated for the public.” (link added)

Dr. Young actively works to help minimize this barrier between medical research advancements and parental/caregiver education. More specifically, Dr. Young helps parents make confident and educated decisions about infant formula once they have made the choice to supplement. (For more information about medically necessary supplementation, rather than supplementation by choice or misconception, check out WHO’s guidance and ABM’s Protocol.)

“In the academic world of pediatric nutrition, research has found quite a lot about the ideal infant formula composition as well as what ideal complementary feeding should look like,” Dr. Young explains. Unfortunately, this information is not widespread.

This is mostly because medical students and residents don’t receive much training in nutrition,” Dr. Young explains. “When they do, it is usually in the context of specific medical disorders, not for healthy infants and children.  Thus, pediatricians aren’t aware of these improvements in knowledge to tell their patients.”

Research imparts encouraging messages

Dr. Young’s current research looks at breast milk composition and infant growth patterns— more specifically “the effects of maternal obesity and/or diabetes on infant adiposity during the first year of life, and how these effects may be mediated by alterations in breast milk composition.”

So far it is astounding how few differences we have found,” Dr. Young says. “Even when certain hormones and molecules differ in the blood of obese versus lean mothers, their breast milk looks very similar.”

It’s an encouraging message for larger breastfeeding mothers, she adds.

Differences have been found in the insulin concentrations in lean and obese mothers’ milk. Dr. Young and her team are currently pursuing research to understand how this may impact the baby and his/her intestinal microbiome.

Because Dr. Young works with new mothers who intend to breastfeed, she says she wanted to be able to provide them with more than academic and emotional support on their journeys. So Dr. Young completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course and found that having a solid understanding of the mechanics and logistics of breastfeeding also improves the quality of her research about breastmilk composition.

Reflecting on the course, Dr. Young reports being most surprised by how many common breastfeeding issues are often easily addressed with simple technique adjustments.

“I find this incredibly hopeful!” she exclaims.

Lactation space for working mothers

Currently pregnant and breastfeeding, Dr. Young understands the challenges working mothers face. For example, she’s pumped in a public bathroom more than once.

Passionate about breastfeeding support from both a personal and social standpoint, Dr. Young has volunteered her time redesigning three lactation rooms and adding four newly designated lactation rooms at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The rooms feature:

  • Comfortable arm chairs with side tables nearby for the pump
  • Extension cords when necessary
  • Increased availability of rooms so women did not have to travel so far
  • Calming but colorful design elements
  • More natural and softer lighting
  • Pump cleaning accessories and supplies
  • Refrigerators
  • Lockable storage lockers for pump storage and
  • Improved privacy.

“All of the improvements were very simple and designed to improve the efficiency of a pumping session, and improve mothers’ comfort in order to help her initiate a good let-down,” Dr. Young explains.

While the room improvements were simple, Dr. Young encountered challenges throughout the process like securing appropriate support channels on campus. Although most everyone was supportive of the project, most were also ignorant to the fact that working breastfeeding mothers face challenges and require proper support to maintain lactation.

The rooms were designed by interior designer Sarah Baumbach.

“She is very talented and was also very intuitive regarding the needs of breastfeeding women,” Dr. Young says. “She has been an invaluable part of this effort.”

For others looking to create lactation spaces, Dr. Young suggests securing support from the most senior management possible.

“That is the only way we finally were able to make headway,” she says.

Preparation was also key to executing the project. Dr. Young suggests consulting the CDC’s website and The Business Case for Breastfeeding.   

The Business Case for Breastfeeding gives you the numbers to make it very clear that managerial support for breastfeeding employees benefits the company just as much as the individual women,” she explains. “Focusing on that “win-win” business mentality when proposing improved lactation resources can make a big difference.”

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