After giving birth, a mother may return to work, but find themselves in a hostile position because of their stance on breastfeeding, “Are you breastfeeding? Wouldn’t the formula be easier? You should be home with the baby if you want to breastfeed!” As if being a new mother was not hard enough, women are bombarded with everyone’s opinions of breastfeeding and it is hard to tell if breastfeeding is worth the trouble. But breast milk is worth the trouble! Since the 2000’s mass amounts of information and studies have discovered that microbes (bacteria and viruses primarily) are essential to human health. For children, this interaction with microbes is even more essential, as it shapes the body’s immature immune system. But where does breast milk come in? Breast milk not only feeds a baby, but it also feeds these healthy microbes that help shape the baby’s future health. But can formula do the same thing? Sadly, not the vast majority. The third-largest component of breast milk is not digested by the baby, but by microbes! This essential molecule is called human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) and it has been linked to better health as an adult, such as protecting against Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Klement et al. and Xu et al.). With new evidence, it appears HMOs are ingested by different microbes, such as Bifidobacterium sp., and these microbes help promote cell tissue formation with the gastrointestinal tract (Marcobal et al.)
With this information it is clear that breastfeeding should be promoted, but there are still barriers for women who choose to do so. Luckily, new organizations and resources are changing this dynamic. For women who want to breastfeed, but are unable to, there are milk banks. For women who return to work, but need to pump during the day in Houston, Texas, there is a new movement to provide Motherhood centers. These centers and suites are safe areas for women to pump and store their breast milk to take home later. They are also equipped with a Milkify Breast Milk Drop-off Kiosk.
Milkify is the only company in the USA to offer a breast milk freeze-drying service. When breast milk is dropped off at the kiosk, Milkify picks up the milk from the secure, medical-grade freezer, freeze-dries the milk, and ships it back to the mother. This service is not only convenient, but it also maintains the health benefits of breast milk. With traditional milk banks, the milk is sterilized and loses some of the healthy microbes that come from breast milk. But with the freeze-drying process, the microbes maintain their health benefits when the milk powder is rehydrated. When I spoke to Dr. Berkley Luck, Co-Founder of Milkify, she was humble and engaging. Her subtle sweetness and her brilliance of understanding the impact of the microbiome by breast milk was so inspiring to me, a microbiome fanatic. She is looking to expand her kiosk operations outward from Texas and the Milkify service is now offered nationwide. This service not only would help mothers trying to return to work, but also help break down the prejudice against breastfeeding mothers.
Klement, E.; Cohen, R.V.; Boxman, J.; Joseph, A.; Reif, S. Breastfeeding and risk of inflammatory bowel disease: a systematic review with meta-analysis. J. Clin. Nutr. 2004, 80, 1342-1352.
Xu, L.; Lockhead, P.; Ko, Y.; Claggett, B.; Leong, R.W.; Ananthakrishnan, A.N. Systemic review with meta-analysis: breastfeeding and the risk of Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Aliment. Pharmacol. Ther. 2017, 46(9), 780-789.
Marcobal, A.; Barboza, M.; Froehlich, J.W.; Block, D.E.; German, J.B.; Lebrilla, C.B.; Mills, D.A. Consumption of Human Milk Oligosaccharides by Gut-related Microbes. J. Agric. Food Chem. 2010, 58(9), 5334-5340.