All content of this blog is my own opinion only. It does not represent the views of any organisation or association I may work for, or be associated with. Nothing within this blog should be considered as medical advice and you should always consult your Doctor.

The Award For The Magazine & Doctor Who Talks The Most Guff About Breastfeeding Goes To....

*drum roll*

Dr Christian Jessen & Closer Magazine
With extra stars for repeat offences.

Seriously you have to wonder why Dr Christian is so into hating the breastfeeding.  Does causing a bit of controversy boost ones celebrity profile if work is quiet?

You might remember Dr Christian offended quite a few folk last year when he tweeted about "militants" and the "breastapo" (yes really a doctor did this).  Had he made such comments in reference to a person's religion or skin colour, I can imagine the outcry that would follow - but hey breastfeeding mothers are fair game right?

It seems it's equally as acceptable for "celebrity doctors" to throw evidence to the wind and spout guff in magazines too.  Sure the WHO/ NHS/NICE are great and all that, but who needs them when personal opinion seemingly trumps research anyway?

This week's Closer magazine:

After receiving rather a lot of flack on Twitter, Dr Christian quickly claimed misquote:

Dr Christian Jessen ‏@DoctorChristian
For those tweeting about my comments in @CloserOnline magazine -they were taken completely out of context! Was referring to 1 specific case.

Dr Christian Jessen ‏@DoctorChristian
1) On the @CloserOnline saga: of course breastfeeding beyond 6 months is fine. The story was about breastfeeding a six year old boy

Dr Christian Jessen ‏@DoctorChristian
2) my comments referred to this particular story and not breastfeeding in general. Unfortunately this is not what ended up being printed!

3) Dr Christian Jessen ‏@DoctorChristian
"THAT WAS WHAT MY 'MAY CAUSE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROBS' COMMENT REFERRED TO @WelshGasDoc: @DoctorChristian Breastfeeding a 6year old is just weird."

So apparently Closer magazines added "only for the first 6 months and after that it.has no effect" - if this is the case I'm sure Dr Christian must be really quite upset.  The notice that appeared from Closer magazine. though strangely that doesn't apologise for a misquote, instead it appears to blame those upset at the comments, and who as a result are unfairly calling Dr Christian uninformed!

Are people unfair?  Let's see what Closer wrote:
In this week's magazine we've published an article about Michelle Atkin who’s breastfeeding her four-year-old and hopes to carry on until he is eight. The mum-of-seven believes breastfeeding helps keep Charlie healthy and says she even uses it to calm him down before he has a tantrum.
Within the article, we included an expert comment from Dr. Christian Jessen, who advised us that while breastfeeding is beneficial for the first six months, continuing until a child is eight could make them overly dependent on their mothers.
And it's stirred up opinion on Twitter, with some people unfairly branding our columnist “ill-informed” and saying “he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about”.
Dr Christian is an advocate of breastfeeding and was commenting directly on the case of a woman planning to feed her son until he was eight years old
Here's what he's had to say on the matter.
“Advice on breast feeding is always changing. The World Health Organisation recommends breast feeding for up to two years, while the NHS recommends breast feeding for the first six months.
“Breast milk is beneficial to a baby's immune system for the first six months, but there is no harm in continuing to do it as long as the child has a healthy diet.
“If a child is being breast fed until eight, this may make them overly dependent on their mother. However if they are being breast-fed at four there is no harm in this.
“I support women who want to breastfeed and would never wish to discourage anyone from doing so.”
Perhaps I'm just not as clever as Dr Christian, but I still don't understand how "only for the first 6 months and after that it.has no effect" as per the original post can have been "taken out of context"?

Dr Christian seems to still heavily imply there is no benefit to breastfeeding beyond six months in the revised comment - kinda out of the frying pan into the fire.

Breastmilk is beneficial to a baby's immune system period.  At 6 months the antibodies don't suddenly vanish from the milk, the HAMLET, stem cells and growth hormones don't vamoosh.  In fact the Department of Health say:

" The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits."

They also say:
"Breastfeeding (and/or breastmilk substitutes,if used) should continue beyond the first six months, along with appropriate types and amounts of solid foods"
Note, not "no harm in continuing", but "should" continue.

"Breastfeeding exclusively is recommended for around the first six months. After that time, breastfeeding is recommended alongside solid food. Therefore it's likely that you'll be breastfeeding when you return to work or college."
Which in the UK is typically 6 months plus postpartum based on standard maternity leave.

So when Dr Jessen says the NHS recommend breastfeeding for six months, that's a rather misleading statement.

Furthermore, the WHO don't actually recommend breastfeeding "for up to 2 years", what they actually say after their recommendation of 6 months exclusive feeding is:
"Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond."
Those two small words at the end make quite a significant difference to the message don't they?  Note they don't set a limit on "beyond"

The AAP are one step ahead of Dr Christian, methinks they've come across his type before ;)
"“Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child… Increased duration of breastfeeding confers significant health and developmental benefits for the child and the mother… There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.”(AAP 2012, AAP 2005)
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine:
Claims that breastfeeding beyond infancy is harmful to mother or infant have absolutely no medical or scientific basis,”Arthur Eidelman, MD, president of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
I wonder which part of  Dr Christian's medical training covered breastfeeding?  Does the title "Dr" qualify one to speak on anything health related, and for any old drivel to be published under the claim of "opinion piece"?  Perhaps next week Closer will ask an ENT their opinion on open heart surgery to really liven things up.

Dr Christian doesn't seem to be familiar with the connection between feeding beyond 6 months and the thymus, a pretty important bit of the immune system.  Nor with potential reduced rates of childhood cancer or IQ, which this 2003 study also highlights.

Let's look at something Dr Jessen is interested in - obesity.  
"A clear dose-response effect was identified for the duration of breast feeding on the prevalence of obesity. The protective effect of breast feeding was not attributable to differences in social class or lifestyle. After adjusting for potential confounding factors, breast feeding remained a significant protective factor against the development of obesity " here
"Infants who were fed breast milk more than infant formula, or who were breastfed for longer periods, had a lower risk of being overweight during older childhood and adolescence." here

"Prolonged breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of overweight among non-Hispanic white children. Breastfeeding longer than 6 months provides health benefits to children well beyond the period of breastfeeding." here
Surely we're tempting Dr Christian now?

I'm getting bored, but suffice to say breastfeeding beyond six months with a has been linked with everything from improved mental health, rate of ear infections and rheumatoid arthritis to reduced rates of breast  ovarian and endometrial cancer in mum.

I was also surprised to read his reply to someone stating feeding a 6yr old was weird.  It strikes me as hugely unprofessional someone would make such a statement when clearly advertising themselves as said medical professional.  Luckily we've BTDT with the whole is it weird a 6 year old feeding, so I don't need to repeat myself.  But I can't help but wonder if Dr Christian hasn't been hanging around with Dr Ellie rather too much.

Next his claims that breastfeeding until 8 may make a child overly dependent.  Which study is this from then? Clearly not the same ones the AAP based their guidelines on.  Exactly how many breastfeeding 8 year olds has Dr Christian met or even heard of?  How many studies examine 8 year old feeding?

 If he's right someone better let the people of Mongolia or South Africa know pretty blooming quick!  And overly dependent compared to what?  The 8 year olds that are out getting a job and flat hunting?  My 7 year old doesn't feed but still strikes me as pretty darn dependent when he wants me to "tuck him in like a gloworm" at 4am.

Of course Closer have their part to play in this too.  But the reality is Closer is to magazines what the Daily Mail is to newspapers; previous breastfeeding features include the woman who breastfed her dog (yes really), a woman defending feeding her 5 year old (their words) and a woman who expressed milk for her husband.  Basically anything they suspect may cause a brouhaha and sell covers.  But Closer aren't recognised influential health professionals are they?

He signed off his tweets today with the following:
Dr Christian Jessen
Right I have a flight to catch! Glad we cleared up breastfeeding issue. 4 those of u interested NHS advice may change …
I have a pang of pity at this point, that he's sinking fast and quoting studies he clearly hasn't even read.  I blogged about this study last year here, and how the headlines were completely different to what the paper actually said.  Not even in any way relevant to today's discussion of breastfeeding beyond 6 months.

I'm going to close with a quote from a Dr who is rather more qualified than Dr Christian to share some pearls of wisdom on the matter.  I showed Dr Jack Newman the magazine today, and although his comments are based on the original "misquote", I think the point still stands:
"Breastfeeding is more than milk. It is a close, intimate relationship between two people who are usually very much in love with each other. People who say that breastfeeding after 6 months or breastfeeding a toddler is of no value, don't understand breastfeeding at all."

ToddlerCalmTM Book Giveaway


Fancy winning a copy of ToddlerCalmTM: A guide for calmer toddlers and happier parents?

We talk a lot about different discipline approaches on the Facebook wall, and often people say if not time outs and sticker charts then what?

Author Sarah Ockwell-Smith has written this book to answer exactly that. With four young children and a psychology degree to boot, the mixture of experience and education come together in a practical package.

Unlike other parenting books written by nannies, or self proclaimed (yet completely unqualified) experts, Sarah has been there and done it with her own children - and as parents know, disciplining your own child with whom you are bonded, is very different to being a nanny.

The book covers:
  • Why toddlers are not mini-adults 
  • The science of toddler sleep 
  • Carrots and sticks - the problem with current popular parenting techniques 
  • Coping with a picky eater 
  • Communication - toddler style 
  • Avoiding difficult situations The importance of unconditional love 
  • Why you don't need to be permissive to parent respectfully

If you don't want to wait for the giveaway, the book is currently on sale at Amazon - £9.65 for paperback or £4.68 on Kindle:
 Have you joined the gentle parenting revolution?

Poem - Why I Love Differences But Hate Stereotypes

I wanted to share this poem written by my second cousin Aimee and her friend, both girls are 13 - thought it was really sweet and insightful.

Breastfeeding, Breasts and Nipples!

"I have a weird right breast, the nipple points to one side whereas the other is more straight"

"The problem is my breasts are so big/small/droopy"

"My nipples/areolas are too small/big"

And so on....

I can't tell you how many mums have a downer on their breasts, it's one of the most common things said about why they're potentially experiencing problems.

What's even worse is that I've met parents who have been told by their health professional they're experiencing problems because their breasts are so large or their nipple too big/small.   So it seems if we can't find the answer as to why a woman is experiencing a problem, blaming her body will do.

Sure there are times you get a tiny preemie 4lb baby, a mother with larger nipples and there may be a temporary mismatch, but these cases are rare.  Even then it isn't that the mother's nipple is "too big", it's that her baby is smaller than typical and so with a little growth things will change.

More often mums who think their nipples are different, actually have perfectly normal nipples -  and how do people decide the basis for comparison?  Too big/small/different compared to what?  Having seen hundreds of pairs, I can tell you there is no "standard".

We don't generally see breasts in an every day context (heaven forbid we breastfeed without modesty), yet we are bombarded with stereotypical media images of "perfect breasts" - as defined (generally by men) based upon what they deem aesthetically pleasing. Social psychologists have found that "perfect breasts" change depending on the era - like a haircut or skirt style, the "standard" changes based on the date.

The reality is nipples are often not symmetrical in either positioning, direction they point or size.  Heck breasts often aren't symmetrical let alone the finer detail of a nipple!

Don't believe me?  Check out a gallery of normal nipples here and normal breasts here

Like airbrushed celebs in glossy magazines, women are often comparing themselves with an unrealistic norm - and when it comes to breastfeeding, I can guarantee your baby wont care what they look like.  Big, small, floppy, pert, nipples pointing up, down, in different directions, all can nourish a baby perfectly well.   

If you're experiencing problems, please don't accept that your body is at fault - seek out further support.  If breasts and nipples needed to be a specific size/shape for breastfeeding to work, throughout history an awful lot of babies would have starved.

Breast Milk Keepsake Necklace Giveaway


Happy Birthday Breast Milk Keepsakes!

To celebrate Breast Milk Keepsakes is giving away a special edition breast milk pendant. A Breast Milk Keepsake is a lovely memento of your breastfeeding journey, it's a badge of honour and something tangible to have after your child has weaned from the breast.

Terms: The winner must be able supply at least 30ml of breast milk. The winner is responsible for the postage and packaging of the milk. If the winner is outside of the UK additional postage charges will apply.

WINNER ANNOUNCED: Paula Lamb congratulations!!!