So often the heated public debate over breastfeeding, and the mommy shaming that accompanies it, is boiled down to breastmilk versus formula. For years, activists have campaigned around the scientific evidence of breast milk's superior health benefits. But researchers behind a new study are warning that moms don't understand the benefits of feeding babies breast milk directly from their breast and are increasingly turning to feeding their child breast milk in a bottle.
Over a five year period, the researchers surveyed more than 2,000 new moms in Hong Kong about their feeding practices. They found that in just that short time span, new moms began to increasingly rely on the bottle. Between 2006 and 2007, the rate of feeding exclusively expressed (by hand or pump) breast milk in the first 6 months postpartum was between 5 and 8 percent. (Expressed breast milk is typically fed to a baby with a bottle.) Between 2011 and 2012, it jumped dramatically to between 18 and 20 percent.
Related: 5 unhealthy mistakes that make you age faster
5 unhealthy mistakes that make you age faster
5 unhealthy mistakes that make you age faster
1. You aren’t sleeping enough
You’ve heard it a thousand times before — not getting enough sleep is the worst thing in the world for your health, and it can even contribute to diseases later on. You may think you’re fine on the five hours of sleep you got last night, but sleeping too little can do serious damage to your skin, which can make you look way older than you are. According to skin care specialist Annmarie Gianni’s blog, studies have shown those who don’t get quality sleep each night had increased signs of skin aging, including fine lines, uneven pigmentation, and reduced elasticity. For those with acne, getting enough rest is particularly important to preserve a youthful look, as the skin heals when you’re asleep. Start getting at least seven to eight hours per night to ensure youthful skin.
Photo: Shutterstock / Andresr
2. You’re eating too much sugar
Sugary drinks and store-bought cookies aren’t just bad for your waistline, they’ll wreak havoc on your looks. Consuming too much processed, sugary food can make your skin look dull. According to research published in 2013, people with the highest blood sugar levels look older. The study involved more than 600 men and women who had no knowledge of their blood sugar levels. A board was asked to guess the age of participants without knowing anything about them, and those who had the highest blood sugar levels were thought to be older.
And consider you may even feel older from the way refined sugars can sap your energy. If you want something sweet, do yourself a favor and reach for the apple instead of the cookie jar.
Photo: Shutterstock / ARENA Creative
3. You’re always stressed
If you’re constantly thinking about the groceries you need to buy, the clothes you need to wash, and the deadlines at work you need to hit, then it’s time to take a deep breath and relax. Not only can chronic stress ruin your sleep patterns and increase your risk for heart disease, but it can also make you look 10 years older than you actually are. Stress chemicals are released into your body when you’re always anxious, which slowly results in a more aged appearance, says The Huffington Post.
If your job is what’s stressing you out, then you’ll want to practice some meditation and mini desk workouts to lighten your mood. The same story mentions a 2012 study published to the journal PLOS ONE shows your DNA may actually be affected by the exhaustion and frustrations you experience at work. Those who worked more stressful jobs were more affected, the story explains, which can actually increase the risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and cancer.
Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto
4. You’re always crash dieting
If you’re always jumping from diet to diet in the hopes of getting your body to where you want it to be, then it’s best to stop while you’re ahead. Making healthy food choices and exercise are great for wellness, but jumping aboard a crash diet is almost always going to set you up for failure.
These diets can also age you dramatically. According to the Miami Herald, fad eating plans often rob us of essential fats, which our skin needs to help retain moisture. Cutting out food groups is a bad choice, too, because you may not get enough of the antioxidants that protect skin from the sun and other types of damage.
5. You wash your hands and face too much
We all want to have perfect skin and clean hands, but all of that washing can do serious damage to your skin and quickly age you. When it comes to your face, use a gentle cleanser without added fragrance, and this goes for tall skin types. While those prone to acne are likely to reach for the products that have benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to keep their skin issues at bay, these ingredients strip the skin and cause severe dryness and irritation that can lead to wrinkles and a dull, aged look. And don’t forget to moisturize, either.
While you may be more concerned with your face than your hands, your hands show signs of aging, too. Daily Express explains washing your hands over and over again during the day dehydrates them, leading to wrinkly, aged skin. If you find your hands are dry and cracked from all of the washing, try massaging them with cream, then slipping on some gloves. The natural heat of your hands and the barrier from the gloves will allow the cream to penetrate deep into the skin, giving you ultra soft skin.
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"New mothers may believe there is no difference between expressed breast-milk feeding and direct feeding at the breast," said study author Marie Tarrant of the University of British Columbia in a press release. "Although expressed breast-milk feeding provides greater benefits than infant formula, bottle-feeding may increase the risk of respiratory issues, asthma, rapid weight gain and oral diseases." The researchbacksherup.
This might just sound like another instance of mommy shaming — first we criticized them for relying on formula, now we're criticizing them for feeding their babies breast milk the wrong way? But Tarrant is focused on the policies, or lack thereof, that make it difficult for women to exclusively feed their babies by breast — like, for example, workplaces that are unfriendly to new moms.
Tarrant suspects that another factor is all the challenges — from sore nipples to a baby's difficulty latching on — that can derail breastfeeding if a woman doesn't have proper support. "Once the baby starts taking the bottle it is even harder to get them back to direct breastfeeding so they continue to use expressed breast milk," said Tarrant in an email to Vocativ. She believes that better access to professional lactation consultants, especially in the hours immediately after birth, could prevent a switch over to the bottle.
But none of this is to suggest against feeding a baby breast milk by bottle, she says, it's just not the ideal scenario. "No one is saying that the feeding of expressed breast milk shouldn't be recommended," she said. "It's just that direct breastfeeding is preferable, where possible."