breastfeeding women from
Researchers at USCís Arnold School have begun a study of breast milk,
seeking to learn which of its immune factors and fatty acids best
protect infants against allergy, infections, and asthma.
Dr. Wilfried Karmaus
Dr. Wilfried Karmaus, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology
and Biostatistics, is leading the three-year effort that will involve a
group of about 150 breastfeeding mothers from the Columbia and
Charleston area. The study is funded by the Thrasher Research Fund,
which awards grants for pediatric research.
Breast milk has long been considered the perfect source of nutrition
for infants. "Breastfeeding creates an emotional connection with the
mother, lowers the risk of childhood obesity and enhances immune factors
to protect infants from viruses and bacteria," Karmaus said.
The research will involve two study populations: one a group of early
term pregnant women and a second group recruited later in pregnancy who
intend to breastfeed.
As part of the study protocol, Karmaus and his team will measure
cytokines, immunoglobulins, and 3- and 6-omega fatty acids in breast
milk. Then they will follow newborns for 24 months and conduct telephone
interviews with the mothers at 6, 12, and 24 months.
In addition to maternal information about the child's health, parents
will be asked to take their child, at 12-15 months of age, for an
allergic examination at the USC School of Medicine.
"Comparing the risk of allergies, asthma, and infections with the
content of breast milk will then provide information about the factors
that render protection. However, this is only a first step. Once we
identify the protective factors in breast milk, we then need to
determine which diet and lifestyle factors can improve the composition
of breast milk," Karmaus said.
Improving the composition of breast milk can only benefit nursing
babies who already have lower rates of hospital admissions, rashes, ear
infections, diarrhea and breathing problems than formula-fed babies do,
Despite the obvious advantages, Karmaus said that in South Carolina,
60 per cent of African-American women and 40 per cent of Caucasian women
do not breastfeed.
Pregnant women in Columbia and Charleston will be contacted to
participate in the study. Women who want to learn more about the study
can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-888-566-7840.
For more information about breastfeeding, Karmaus said women should
contact organizations such as La Leche League (1-803-996-0726 in South
Carolina), the International
Lactation Consultant Association, the
National Womenís Health Information Center or the National
Breastfeeding Helpline (1-800-994-9662).
Breastfeeding is a protected activity in South Carolina where state
law provides that a woman may nurse her child in any location where the
mother and the child are authorized to be and that the act of
breastfeeding is not considered indecent exposure.
Working Women magazine
also has information about breastfeeding in the workplace, but S.C. law
does not create a right to nurse on the job, support for breastfed
children in child-care or excusal from jury duty.