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Breathing Easy

Sara D. F.
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 19 No. 9, July-August, p. 132

When my son, Nat, was just over one year old, he began to have asthma-like breathing problems. His pediatrician advised that he be given breathing treatments via a nebulizer. This is a machine that sprays the medicine in a mist. It is usually suggested that the baby wear a mask to ensure that the mist enters his nostrils or mouth when he inhales. This method just did not work for us and I soon found that the easiest, least stressful, and most efficient way to give these breathing treatments was to hold the tube dispensing the mist right up to Nat's nose and mouth while I breastfed him. He stopped squirming and settled in for a cuddle and a snack while I administered the breathing treatment. I told my pediatrician about this solution and she thought it was great. I told her and her nurses, anyone willing to listen, that this was a great benefit of breastfeeding past one year that I had never anticipated. Breastfeeding was clearly more than food for us. Nat's breathing problems eventually resolved and he never did develop asthma.

Last week my youngest daughter, Nora, at 22 months, was diagnosed with a virus. The physician said she needed a breathing treatment right away and the nurse brought in the nebulizer for us to use. As soon as the nurse left the room, I situated myself in one of the chairs, lifted my shirt, Nora latched on, and I began to administer the medicated mist near her nose and mouth. The nurse poked her head into the room, saw what we were doing and smiled. In a few moments, the doctor checked in and saw that we were breastfeeding. I told him I had used this method of "breastfeeding while nebulizing" with all of my children and it sure beat trying to hold them down and give them their treatment while they were screaming and squirming! He agreed. He advised that we continue our treatments at home for at least a week.

Yesterday, Nat was in the tub when I brought Nora into the bathroom to give her a breathing treatment. After I had started up the machine, Nat peered out from behind the shower curtain and said, "Mom, that is a great way to give Nora her treatment. She is so calm!" I smiled and told him I had learned this method from him. He wanted to hear the story of how that happened and I told him. I told him he had taught me many things about how to be a good mother and I thanked him for that.

I have learned that breastfeeding my children is no guarantee that they will not develop respiratory illnesses. However, I am grateful that breastfeeding continued past infancy for all my children and that I am still breastfeeding Nora. Because of our breastfeeding relationship, I am able to administer the medicine she needs from the nebulizer, along with the perfect food from me. And perhaps I helped to delay the age at which my children became ill with these respiratory viruses. Just today I found information on the Web site for the US Centers for Disease Control ( about the human parainfluenza virus which notes that "Passively acquired maternal antibodies may play a role in protection from HPIV types 1 and 2 in the first few months of life, highlighting the importance of breastfeeding."

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