Hospitalist Melissa Bartick, MD, MSc, became interested in breastfeeding some 10 years ago, as she was preparing for her first child. Her interest leaped to the national stage this month when several news outlets cited a study on which she is co-author and has implications for hospitalists treating lactating mothers.
“The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis” reported that if 90% of U.S. families fell in line with doctors’ recommendations to breastfeed newborns for six months, the country “would save $13 billion a year and prevent an excess 911 deaths, nearly all of which would be infants” (DOI: 10.1542/peds.2009-1616).
While breastfeeding isn’t a topic often mentioned by HM leaders, Dr. Bartick, a hospitalist at Cambridge Health Alliance in suburban Boston, points to its ties to preventing obesity, cardiovascular disease, and myocardial infarction (MI) incidences as reasons for hospitalists to keep a keener eye on the issue.
“Breastfeeding affects all kinds of diseases that we as hospitalists see every day,” Dr. Bartick adds. “It makes sense to study it.”
Dr. Bartick pushes physicians to think more about keeping lactating mothers and their infants connected during admissions. She also recommends increased usage of LactMed, a National Library of Medicine-sponsored database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers might be exposed. Too many physicians, hospitalists included, will simply stop breastfeeding for hospitalized women just to stay on the safe side when a bit of research could eliminate complications.
“It’s important to be familiar with the physiology around lactation,” Dr. Bartick says. “It’s important to keep it going uninterrupted even if a woman is in the hospital. … It’s not going an extra mile. It’s 20 seconds on the computer to go to LactMed.”