Health Articles

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed newborns

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March is Parenting Awareness Month. The earliest choice parents can make to ensure their child gets the best right from birth is to breastfeed. It is the natural way, and as long as a mother and child are able to, it's the healthiest and most affordable choice for both mother and child.

Countless studies have shown breastfeeding is the healthiest option for infants. It decreases the risk for asthma, allergies, ear infections, respiratory infections, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, iron-deficiency anima, SIDS, diabetes, digestive problems, childhood cancers and dental problems. It's also been proven to reduce the chance of a mother developing diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, hypertensive and cardiovascular diseases.

At the Portage Health Family Birthing Center, we've been focusing on promoting breastfeeding a lot over the past year. Recently, I completed training to officially make me a certified lactation consultant, and our birthing center became a bag-free hospital, officially recognized by the good people at

What that means is that Portage Health no longer gives our new parents free formula bags with formula samples. This is something we're proud of, and we hope other birthing centers will do the same. Studies prove that parents who were given these formula samples used formula much earlier in their infant's life.

At our birthing center we focus on helping mothers nurse as quickly as possible. In fact, the World Health Organization and United Nations Children's Fund Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative suggest mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth. It might take longer to actually nurse, but we try to help mothers have that skin-to-skin contact with their children immediately.

They also suggest that artificial nipples or pacifiers should not be used until breastfeeding habits are firmly established. That's usually by three-to-four weeks of age.

Another thing we've found to be vital to a mother-child relationship while in the birthing center is keeping the baby in the room with the mother. We call this rooming-in. This encourages unrestricted breastfeeding whenever the child needs. It's important for mothers to see a baby's signs of feeding readiness.

Rooming-in allows mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day in the hospital. Moms can observe early feeding cues since newborns need a minimum of 10-to-12 feedings in a 24-hour period of time, often with no particular pattern of frequency. If your baby is kept in the nursery, early feeding signs may be missed and moms may have more difficulty getting a crying baby to latch.

We also suggest giving newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated. There are medical indications for supplementing with formula (dehydration, hypoglycemia and certain types of jaundice for example) and your pediatrician will advise you on the best decision for your baby. However, supplementing with formula when there is no medical need can reduce duration of breastfeeding, increase an infant's risk for reflux, colic (Cohen-Silver) and allergies, and reduce the protective benefits of exclusive breastfeeding mentioned above.

It's also important to realize the economic benefits of breastfeeding. Families can save more than $1,000 a year in formula alone. Employers and the community also benefit with fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off for sick children and higher employee productivity.

Breastfeeding is something we should all be proud of and work together to make it more of a norm. The government is helping, including the Workplace Breastfeeding Law, which was created in 2010. This law mandates employers with more than 50 employees to provide "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth each time such employee has the need to express the milk." In addition, the employer must provide a private place other than a bathroom.

When an expectant mother talks about breastfeeding, listen to her, support her personal breastfeeding goals and praise her for her choice. It's better for the baby, her and the entire community. When you see a mother feeding her infant at the "breast-aurant," please do not be offended, glare disapprovingly or harass and humiliate her. Breasts are made for breastfeeding and breast milk is species-specific, designed for human babies. When a mom chooses to breastfeed her child, everyone benefits.

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Editor's note: Joye Battisfore is a certified lactation consultant at the Portage Health Family Birthing Center.

Be mindful of ticks ... and Lyme disease

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Lifecycle of Ticks:

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States. In Michigan, there is an incident rate of about 1 per 100,000 residents. The incidence of Lyme disease is 30 times higher in our closely neighboring state, Wisconsin.

Lyme disease has been in the news more than usual this year, as the population of ticks is thought to be expanding in some areas of Michigan. I have recently been seeing an increase of patients with complaints of tick bites, and questions regarding Lyme disease.

The disease is spread only by blacklegged ticks, formerly known as deer ticks (Ixodes species), that are infected with the disease. These ticks are brown in color and the size of a poppy/sesame seed, or the tip of a pencil. Infected ticks have to be attached to their host (deer, human, etc.) and feed for the disease to be transmitted to the host. Typically the tick would have to be attached for 24 hours, and feed for an additional 36-to-48 hours before disease transmission occurs. Ticks will become engorged, or full of blood, after they have fed.

Initial symptoms of Lyme disease include rash and/or flu-like symptoms. The rash can occur several days after the tick bite, but can appear up to one month after. The rash is normally described as a “bull’s eye” rash, because it is often salmon/red in color with a central clearing. Flu-like symptoms consist of fever, chills, fatigue, weakness, headache, and muscle/joint pain. If the disease progresses without treatment there can be neurological, joint, heart or brain involvement.

The number one way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. I don’t expect residents of the Keweenaw to avoid our densely wooded areas where the ticks are found. Instead, take precaution. Try to stay in the middle of trails, dress accordingly, and do your due diligence after leaving the woods to check for ticks.

Dressing accordingly includes close-toed shoes or boots, a long-sleeved shirt tucked into your pants, and pants tucked into socks. Light-colored clothing will also make the ticks easier to spot. Insect repellant should be worn. While in the woods, check yourself frequently for ticks. Once out of the woods, examine yourself and your clothing closely. Ticks prefer warm moist areas such as armpit, groin and the back of knees, but often can be found on the scalp as well. It’s important to bathe as soon as you can after leaving the woods, hopefully ticks will be washed away before they have a chance to attach.

If a tick is attached, care should be taken to remove it. Do not try to burn, twist or smother the tick.

  1. Use pointed tweezers (not your hands) to grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible. Do not crush the body of the tick.
  2. Pull the tick straight out with slow, steady pressure.
  3. Wash the area where the tick was, and your hands, with soap and water immediately after removal.
  4. If part of the tick remains in the skin, medical attention is not required as the remaining parts are usually expelled on their own. Do not attempt to remove the remaining parts.

After removing the tick, pay attention to the skin where it attached. Also, remember only the smaller, blacklegged species of ticks can cause Lyme disease. Medical attention should be sought if a person experiences a rash or flu-like symptoms.


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