Guilt of Breastfeeding Failure

In previous posts, this blog (see below) has examined the potential bias of studies reporting better outcomes in breastfed infants along with issues of maternal guilt. A recent commentary explores the issue of feeling guilty when breastfeeding does not go well.

AJ Kennedy. NEJM 2023; 388:1447-1449. Breast or Bottle — The Illusion of Choice

Some excerpts:

Only about 25% of women in the United States exclusively breast-feed for the recommended period.2  After my struggles, these statistics seem realistic to me, but before I went through it myself, I had no concept of how hard it could be…

Around the time my son turned 6 months old…my primary care doctor… gave me the courage to start taking medication and to stop breast-feeding that very week. Though the guilt about stopping has never fully gone away, the joy and happiness in my life quickly returned…

Even after I’ve told them that I might not choose to breast-feed this time around [with 2nd child], multiple doctors have “reminded” me that breast milk has been shown to carry Covid-19 antibodies — yet another reason to feel ashamed if I choose not to breast-feed…I am hopeful that this time around I can embrace formula feeding more quickly if that is the path that works best for me and my baby,…

I encourage the AAP and other national health organizations to consider how their statements on exclusive breast-feeding are perceived by the public. If 75% of us are not meeting this goal [6 months of exclusive breastfeeding], a more patient-centered approach and recommendation is needed.

My take: Breastfeeding does not work for everyone. Parents often feel guilty about perceived short-comings and we need to find a balance in encouraging breastfeeding but acknowledging that formula feeding is a good alternative.

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Lipid Emulsions and Cognitive Outcomes

M Thanhaeuser et al. J Pediatr 2023; 254: 68-74. Open Access: A secondary Outcome Analysis of a Randomized Trial Using a Mixed Lipid Emulsion Containing Fish Oil in Infants with Extremely Low Birth Weight: Cognitive and Behavioral Outcome at Preschool Age

Methods: This was a retrospective secondary outcome analysis of a randomized controlled trial performed between June 2012 and June 2015. Infants with extremely low birth weight received either a mixed (soybean oil, medium chain triglycerides, olive oil, fish oil) or a soybean oil-based lipid emulsion for parenteral nutrition (up to 3 gm/kd/day). At 5 years 6 months of age, data of 153 of 206 infants (74%) were available for analysis.

Key findings:

My take: The discussion highlights the lack of a positive benefit from the mixed emulsion. However, one of the biggest concerns with lipid emulsions occurs in the setting of lipid emulsion restriction due to parenteral nutrition associated liver disease. Because mixed emulsions are better tolerated, this helps minimize lipid restriction which could result in worsened neurocognitive outcomes.

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Funny-shaped Saguaro, Tucson, AZ

Meds for Obesity: AAP Guidelines

Selected recommendations:

  • In children 10 y and older, pediatricians and other PHCPs should evaluate for lipid abnormalities, abnormal glucose metabolism, and abnormal liver function in children and adolescents with obesity (BMI ≥95th percentile) and for lipid abnormalities in children and adolescents with overweight (BMI ≥85th percentile to <95th percentile). 
  • Pediatricians and other PHCPs should provide or refer children 6 y and older (Grade B) and may provide or refer children 2 through 5 y of age (Grade C) with overweight (BMI ≥85th percentile to <95th percentile) and obesity (BMI ≥95th percentile) to intensive health behavior and lifestyle treatment.
  • Pediatricians and other PHCPs should offer adolescents 12 y and older with obesity (BMI ≥95th percentile) wt loss pharmacotherapy, according to medication indications, risks, and benefits, as an adjunct to health behavior and lifestyle treatment. 
  • Pediatricians and other PHCPs should offer referral for adolescents 13 y and older with severe obesity (BMI ≥120% of the 95th percentile for age and sex) for evaluation for metabolic and bariatric surgery to local or regional comprehensive multidisciplinary pediatric metabolic and bariatric surgery centers. 

My take: As with the AGA, the AAP has now recommended the widespread adoption of pharmacologic therapy for use in patients with obesity. It appears that treatment would be required indefinitely, though, given the likelihood of weight gain when treatment is stopped (reviewed on a future post).

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The Onion’s Take on the New AAP Guidelines:

More is Not Better: Protein for Preterm Infants

FH Bloomfield et al. NEJM 2022; 387: 1661-1672. Early Amino Acids in Extremely Preterm Babies

My take: For preterm infants <1000 gram, this study showed that the usual dosing of amino acids 2.5 gram to 3.5 gram per day (the placebo group) appeared to have better secondary outcomes (though within confidence intervals) than those who received an additional 1 gram per day.

Slides from video summary:

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Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA) for Preterm Infants and Intelligence

JF Gould et al. NEJM 2022; 387: 1579-1588. Neonatal Docosahexaenoic Acid in Preterm Infants and Intelligence at 5 Years

Background: “Because its accretion into the brain is greatest during the final trimester of pregnancy, infants born before 29 weeks’ gestation do not receive the normal supply of DHA.”

In this randomized placebo-controlled study of infants born prior to 29 weeks gestation, DHA supplementation 60 mg/kg/day was given to the study group and cognitive outcomes were measured at 5 yrs. 480 (73%) had an full-scale intelligence quotient (FSIQ) score available — 241 in the DHA group and 239 in the control group.

Key findings:  FSIQ scores were 95.4±17.3 in the DHA group and 91.9±19.1 in the control group. Adverse events were similar in the two groups.

Short take video: DHA in Premature Infants

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What’s in Your Gut and How to Change It

W Turpin et al. Gastroenterol 2022; 163: 685-698. Open access! Mediterranean-Like Dietary Pattern Associations With Gut Microbiome Composition and Subclinical Gastrointestinal Inflammation

As part of the Genetic, Environmental, Microbial (GEM) Project, the researchers recruited a cohort of 2289 healthy first-degree relatives of patients with Crohn’s disease. Diet was assessed with a food frequency questionnaire. Key finding: A Mediterranean-like dietary pattern is associated with microbiome (increased Ruminococcus, as well as taxa such as Faecalibacterium) and lower intestinal inflammation.

L Zhao et al. Gastroenterol 2022; 163: 699-711. Open Access! Uncovering 1058 Novel Human Enteric DNA Viruses Through Deep Long-Read Third-Generation Sequencing and Their Clinical Impact This study discovered 1058 novel human gut viruses, and these findings can contribute to current viral reference genome, future virome investigation, and colorectal cancer diagnosis. From the editorial: “Previous literature also identified virome signatures associated with certain diseases, such as colorectal cancer14 or inflammatory bowel disease,15 such that a better understanding of the viral dark matter may be used to develop biomarkers to identify individuals at risk or even to influence gut physiology.”

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What is the Best Ferritin Threshold and Why It Needs to Be Checked In 1-Year-Olds

E Mantadakis. J Pediatr 2022; 245: 12-14. (Editorial) Open access. Serum Ferritin Threshold for Iron Deficiency Screening in One-Year-Old Children nutrition.

N Mukhtarova et al. J Pediatr 2022; 245: 217-221. Serum Ferritin Threshold for Iron Deficiency Screening in One-Year-Old Children. This study included 3153 infants, with 698 included in the final analysis.

Key points:

  • 11.4% had iron deficiency, 3.5% had iron deficiency anemia, 8.2% had anemia, and 76.9% were normal.
  • “The authors showed that the hemoglobin threshold of 110 g/L that  is currently recommended for diagnosing anemia at 1-year-old well-child visit corresponds with a very low serum ferritin (4.42 mcg/L).”
  • In a previous study, TARGet Kids!, “a higher serum ferritin was associated with higher cognitive function, with a serum ferritin of 17 mcg/L corresponding with the maximum level of cognition.” That is, iron deficiency, even in the absence of anemia, can contribute to detrimental cognitive outcomes.
  • Thus, current hemoglobin levels and ferritin need to be revised.  Neither a hemoglobin of 11.0 g/dL nor a ferritin of 12 mcg/L is sensitive in detecting iron deficiency in toddlers.
  • In the U.S., only ~40% of anemia in toddlers is attributable to iron deficiency; thus, checking a ferritin can help determine if iron supplementation is worthwhile.

My take: Iron deficiency anemia is a late indicator of iron deficiency and relying on hemoglobin alone could have irreversible detrimental effects on cognitive outcomes. These articles make a strong argument for the following:

  1. Use a ferritin threshold of at least 18 mcg/L to determine if iron deficient
  2. Check a ferritin along with a hemoglobin at 1-year well-child check. 

Related blog post: Briefly Noted: Ferritin Levels and Cognitive Outcomes

Rock Garden, Calhoun Ga

Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID) with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Last week, this blog highlighted a study regarding the prevalence of ARFID in pediatric neurogastroenterology (Prevalence of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorders in Pediatric Neurogastroenterology).

Today, this post reviews a study with 955 adult patients from 4 prospective studies who had completed the IBS Quality of Life Instrument (IBS-QOL). The 3 questions constituting the food domain were used to identify patients with reported severe food avoidance and restriction.

Key findings:

  • In total, 13.2 % of the patients reported severe food avoidance and restriction, and in these patients all aspects of quality of life were lower (P < .01) and psychological, GI, and somatic symptoms were more severe (P < .05). 

The associated editorial provides a lot of information on ARFID in this setting.

Key points:

  • “The sine qua non of ARFID is a reduction in food intake, in terms of volume and/or variety, not primarily motivated by body image disturbance”
  • “Motivations behind changes in eating in ARFID need to be 1 or more of 3 prototypical presentations: (1) fear of aversive consequences (eg, IBS symptoms), (2) a lack of interest in eating or low appetite, and (3) sensitivity to sensory characteristics of food (eg, taste, texture, smell)”
  • “Weight suppression has similar deleterious health effects as is seen in anorexia nervosa, including cardiac abnormalities and bone mineral density loss”
  • “Up to 90% of patients in IBS reporting avoidance of specific foods”
  • “To identify presence of problematic avoidant/restrictive eating, there are ARFID measures validated with cutoffs (eg, the 9-item ARFID Screen;22,23 the PARDI-ARFID questionnaire).24 Nevertheless, more research is needed on the utility of these screening measures in IBS populations”

My take: Patients with ARFID and IBS need much more careful dietary counseling. So, it is important to consider the possibility of ARFID in this patient population.

Related article: E Yelencich et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2022; 20: 1282-1289. Open Access PDF: Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder Prevalent Among Patients With Inflammatory Bowel Disease In this cross-sectional study of adults with IBD, 28/161 (17%) had a positive ARFID risk score (>/=24). Most participants (92%) reported avoiding 1 or more foods while having active symptoms, and 74% continued to avoid 1 or more foods even in the absence of symptoms. Patients with a positive ARFID risk screen were significantly more likely to be at risk for malnutrition (60.7% vs 15.8%; P < .01)

Related blog post:

Afraid to Eat -Could be “Avoidant Restrictive Food Intake Disorder”

Prevalence of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorders in Pediatric Neurogastroenterology

HB Murray et al. JPGN 2022; 74: 588-592. Prevalence and Characteristics of Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder in Pediatric Neurogastroenterology Patients

Associated commentary by SB Oliveira, A Kaul: Invited Commentary Re: Prevalence and Characteristics of Avoidant/ Restrictive Food Intake Disorder in Pediatric Neurogastroenterology Patients

This was a retrospective study with 129 consecutive neurogastroenterology patients. Key findings:

  • Eleven cases (8%) met the full criteria for ARFID (DSM, 5th ed) and 19 cases (15%) had clinically significant avoidant/ restrictive eating behaviors with insufficient information for a definitive ARFID diagnosis
  • In a separate retrospective study, the same center published data on ARFID in a general pediatric population, showing 1.5% meeting the full criteria and 2.4% with some features (KT Eddy et al. Int J Eat Disord . 2015 Jul;48(5):464-70. Prevalence of DSM-5 avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder in a pediatric gastroenterology healthcare network)

The discussion notes that while elimination diets (eg. low FODMAPs diets) are frequently used for disorders of brain-gut interaction, they may increase the risk of ARFID. “Some children may develop fear of what will happen when they try foods again.”

The insightful commentary makes several useful points:

  • A retrospective study is not the best way to determine prevalence of ARFID particularly as many practitioners have limited familiarity and documentation may be inadequate
  • Nutritional rehabilitation can improve GI function. It has been shown that patients with anorexia nervosa have delayed gastric emptying which improved with refeeding. More broadly, it is often challenging to definitively determine the cause and effect in patients with malnutrition and gut dysmotility. (This is why I rarely obtain gastric emptying studies in patients with poor nutritional status)

My take: ARFID can be difficult to manage and is important to consider in our patient population, and probably even more so in patients seen in neurogastroenterology programs. The exact prevalence of ARFID in these programs is uncertain and prospective studies are needed.

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Predicting Intestinal Failure After Gastroschisis Repair

N Vinit et al. J Pediatr 2022; DOI: (Ahead of print) Predicting Factors of Protracted Intestinal Failure in Children with Gastroschisis

Methods: Retrospective study. Among 180 patients, 35 required long-term parenteral nutrition (SBS-IF group) and 145 acquired full oral feeding within 6 months (oral feeding group) over mean f/u of 7.9 years.

Key findings:

  • Both bowel matting (OR, 14.2, P = .039) and secondarily diagnosed atresia or stenosis (OR, 17.78, P = .001) were independent postnatal predictors of SBS-IF.
  • An initial residual small bowel length of more than 50 cm was the best predictive cut-off for nutritional autonomy, with a sensitivity of 67% and a specificity of 100%

My take: This study identifies bowel matting and atresia/stenosis as additional factors in predicting nutritional autonomy.

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