Rochester’s Role as Breastfeeding Epicenter Continues with World’s First Breastfeeding Division

Sep. 30, 2022

New, multidisciplinary department will help families achieve their breastfeeding goals

The University of Rochester Medical Center has created a new, multidisciplinary department made up of breastfeeding medicine providers, dentists, toxicologists for medication consulting, family medicine physicians, and researchers to promote and advance breastfeeding.

Led by Casey Rosen-Carole, M.D., M.P.H., M.S.Ed, FABM, the Division of Breastfeeding and Lactation serves as the culmination of long-standing efforts by the URMC Departments of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN) to promote and advance the cause of breastfeeding and lactating families.

“The formation of this Division represents the culmination of 60 years of work that confirms breastfeeding and human lactation belongs in the medical field,” said Rosen-Carole.

She credits Ruth Lawrence, M.D., a URMC faculty member for establishing the modern foundation of breastfeeding as medical practice. Lawrence worked tirelessly since the 1950s as one of the foremost international experts on breastfeeding and the lead author of the seminal textbook Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession in 1979, now in its 9th Edition.

“Dr. Lawrence was influential in building the science and advocacy, and we are thrilled to continue her legacy,” she said.

Reaching Patients

As a fully independent, multi-disciplinary group, the Division of Breastfeeding and Lactation Medicine will provide a variety of services for patients, including: latch-assessments, pump-assessments, management of low milk supply, induced lactation, medication management, treatment for tongue-tied infants and those struggling to grow, and screening for post-partum symptoms for mothers.

In addition, the Division will work to make breastfeeding accessible for families who may face obstacles due to socio-economic barriers or lack of institutional support. “The best evidence recommends that children are breastfed for at least 2 years, but the world is not set up for lactating families,” said Rosen-Carole, “there remains inadequate paid parental leave, poor coverage for lactation support and inadequate access to donor milk for most families in this country.”

The Division will navigate these obstacles by meeting patients where they are and setting realistic, sustainable goals.

“If someone wants to breastfeed or lactate for only a certain amount of time, we’re going trust them that it’s the best decision for their own family and help them reach those goals. There are also people who struggle to meet their goals, and we can help by treating their pain, helping to maintain a partial milk supply, or weaning as comfortably as possible,” said Rosen-Carole, who was Lawrence’s last Fellow before her retirement. Since 2016, Rosen-Carole has been the director of lactation services, and has overseen the growth of the program. In 2019, the group established their own clinical site, and in 2020, added 3-year fellow Michele Burtner, C.N.M., M.S., M.P.H., IBCLC as Assistant Director of the program.

Advancing Research

In addition to providing clinical services, the Division will advance research in human milk and feeding science, best practice implementation and breastfeeding education. Bridget Young, Ph.D., Assistant Research Professor of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences, will be named Research Director of the Division. She has co-authored several groundbreaking papers, including recent publications on COVID antibodies in breastmilk  and the effects of the pediatric COVID vaccine in breastmilk.

Rosen-Carole credits OBGYN as well as the Divisions of Neonatology and General Pediatrics for providing critical support to help breastfeeding and lactation services establish itself and grow into an independent division.

“Rochester has been an epicenter for breastfeeding advocacy since Dr. Lawrence’s tenure on faculty,” said Rosen-Carole, “thanks to the support we’ve received, we’ll have solid research and excellent clinical expertise to help more people take part in this important human experience.”