Monday, June 4, 2012

Health Buzz: Moms Fall Short of Breastfeeding Goals

Study: Only One-Third of Moms Breastfeed for First Three Months

Many new moms don't meet their own breastfeeding goals. Only one-third of those who intend to breastfeed for at least the first three months of their infant's life actually do so, according to a study published Monday in Pediatrics. In a nationwide mail survey administered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 85 percent of women said they planned to exclusively breastfeed for at least three months, but only 32 percent followed through. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends mothers breastfeed for the first six months of their baby's life. Study authors found that certain women were more likely to drop their breastfeeding goals than others—specifically those who were obese or smoked. Mothers who were married or in a partnership were more likely to follow through than single moms. "What this says to me is that our low breastfeeding rates are not because women don't know about the benefits of breastfeeding, or because they don't want to breastfeed," study author Cria Perrine, a researcher with the CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, told The Huffington Post. "It's because they're not getting support."

Pet Health: Dangerous Foods for Dogs and Cats

Those puppy dog eyes and wagging tail. That purr. They'll get your pet everywhere and everything—maybe even scraps from the table and treats intended for humans. But little rewards here and there aren't always so innocent, and could jeopardize your dog or cat's health. To an animal, chocolate isn't just a savory sweet, and grapes aren't just a tasty break from dog or cat chow. Indeed, these items can lead to everything from kidney failure to death.

Be wary of these five dangerous foods for dogs:

1. Chocolate. Perhaps the most well-known of what's off-limits to dogs, chocolate and cocoa contain theobromide, a chemical that increases urination and can harm the heart, lungs, kidney, and central nervous system. Pure baking chocolate is most toxic, while milk chocolate is only dangerous when consumed in a higher dose. A 20-pound dog, for example, could become sick after having 2 ounces of baking chocolate, but it would take 20 ounces of milk chocolate to cause harm. Symptoms include tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rate, and overheating. 

2. Sugarless gum. It's packed with xylitol, a sugar-free sweetener that stimulates the canine pancreas to secrete insulin, leading to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and severe liver damage. "Your dog will seem drunk, just like a human—staggering around and acting erratic," says Jay Ryan, medical director at BluePearl Vet in Skokie, Ill. Just two pieces can cause hypoglycemia in a 20-pound dog. Within 30 to 60 minutes, your four-legged friend could appear weak, begin having seizures, or even collapse. Most dogs recover if they're treated early enough, but liver damage could be permanent. [Read more: Pet Health: Dangerous Foods for Dogs and Cats] 

Secrets to Getting the Best Healthcare

At some point, no matter who you are, you'll need good healthcare providers to check you over periodically, fix small problems before they turn serious, and perhaps deal with serious ones that weren't found or couldn't be fixed. It's not that hard to find a primary care provider, and the occasional specialist when necessary. You ask around to see who family members and trusted friends use, check to make sure they're taking new patients (and are in your insurance network), and get specialist recommendations from your regular doctor once you have one.

But the question isn't how to find doctors, but how to find good ones. And that's not so easy. These key principles can help lead you to good healthcare.

1. Accept the information gap. Let's start with the all-important gatekeeper, the primary care doctor who manages your health by keeping you current with immunizations, screening tests, and other preventive care, refers you to specialists when that's indicated, and otherwise manages your health. In all likelihood he or she will be an internist or family doctor, although some women like to use an obstetrician-gynecologist for primary care. Plenty of Websites, like, show you where and when a prospective primary care doctor went to medical school and did her residency, and perhaps indicate any license suspension or criminal conviction. Trouble is, these facts are not especially helpful. Studies have not demonstrated a meaningful relationship between where doctors are educated and how good they are as primary care practitioners. And while you hardly want a doctor with questionable credentials taking care of you, eliminating physicians with shady pasts doesn't say anything about the competence of those remaining.

In an October 2010 essay in USA Today, internist and blogger Kevin Pho cited an Archives of Internal Medicine study which found that "most publicly available information on individual physicians—such as disciplinary actions, the number of malpractice payments, or years of experience—had little correlation with whether they adhered to the recommended medical guidelines. In other words, there's no easy way to research how well a doctor manages conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. That kind of relevant performance data are hidden from the public."

There's no real alternative to starting by assembling a list of possible candidates whose offices aren't impossibly far from you, then calling to see if they are taking new patients and will accept your insurance. [Read more: Secrets to Getting the Best Healthcare]

Angela Haupt is a health reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at 

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