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The Benefits of Breastfeeding for My Family

Jessica Bunting
Andover MA USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 20 No. 6, November-December 2003, pp. 214

When my son, Oscar, was about a month old, his pediatric plastic surgeon told us that he had torticollis. While my husband and I never expected that diagnosis, the initial sign of torticollis-a somewhat "folded over" ear-was evident from day one.

To briefly explain, torticollis can occur when a baby is crowded in the womb and will literally tilt his head to accommodate his lack of space. As a result, one side of the neck's muscles will not develop as well as the other and will cause his head to permanently tilt to one direction. We assumed that our newborn baby's head was bound to tilt one way or the other because his neck muscles needed to strengthen. However, we learned more when we consulted a pediatric plastic surgeon to find out if there was something that could be done about Oscar's ear. The surgeon pointed out the torticollis and told us that it is very important to watch for the same tilt, in the same direction, all the time. Oscar's torticollis wasn't severe enough to require surgery, but he did begin receiving physical therapy to help his neck muscles, and that has succeeded in developing them. I knew the appearance of his ear, however, might benefit from other treatments.

When we arrived at the center for Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the Children's Hospital in Boston, the first question I was asked was, "Are you a breastfeeding mother?" I responded with a proud, emphatic, "Yes!" The doctor smiled as if I had won a prize.

We learned that since Oscar was a breastfed baby, his bones and cartilage were soft and pliable enough for a non-surgical treatment to his ear. Our doctor told us that if Oscar had been formula-fedâ we would have needed t wait until surgery could be done when he was six years old. Oscar's ear was molded into a more normal shape with a plastic insert inside the fold of his ear and surgical steri-strips taping his ear back to his head. As the doctor inserted the plastic and taped back his ear, she needed to really manipulate his ear into the right position. Well, Oscar did not mind because he was happily breastfeeding away during the entire procedure. "Thank God I'm breastfeeding," I said to my husband, "or this would have been a terrible day." After only eight weeks, Oscar's ear looked normal and no one would ever know. Our experience with this treatment is one more in the long list of benefits of breastfeeding for our family.

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