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Chasing the butterfly: understanding how the thyroid gland impacts breastfeeding
Alex has been a lactation consultant in the Washington, DC area since 2010. In addition to running her private practice, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Lactation Consultants, Alex cares for breastfeeding moms and babies at Hirsch Pediatrics in Rockville, MD. After earning her master's in English Literature and teaching for several years, Alex met two extraordinary people that inspired her to enter the field of lactation: her daughters. Alex has worked at Inova Fairfax Hospital and Sibley Memorial Hospital as an in-patient lactation consultant. In 2015, she graduated summa cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore School of Nursing with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing. Alex is committed to increasing awareness for impaired mammary organ development (IMOD) and impaired mammary organ function (IMOF).
Often overlooked and as elusive as the butterfly it resembles, the thyroid gland may lurk behind a number of breastfeeding difficulties, including low-supply, over-supply, and overt lactation failure. Recent research has revealed that thyroid disorders during pregnancy and postpartum are more common than previously thought. A substantial amount of our current professional discourse centers around tongue-tie, which occurs in anywhere from 4.2%-10.7% of babies, while thyroid disorders in lactating women may in fact be more prevalent than tongue tie, affecting anywhere from 6.7%-13.3% of women in the postpartum period. Even more alarming is that as many 50-80% of these cases may be missed by a woman’s healthcare provider. During this presentation, you will gain a basic understanding of how the thyroid gland functions and the various ways in which a dysfunctional thyroid can adversely affect lactation. You will also learn which signs and symptoms warrant a referral to a primary health care provider. We will review the latest evidence-based thyroid hormone reference values appropriate for a woman during pregnancy and postpartum so that, if your patient does undergo testing, you will feel confident discussing those results with her. Finally, we will discuss some herbal and dietary recommendations for improving thyroid function.