Radiating Hope: Radiology Department Blog


Breastfeeding Week: How We Use Breast Milk in Radiology

Breastfeeding Week: How We Use Breast Milk in Radiology

Breast milk not only provides perfect nutrition for your infant, but it can also play a huge role in some of the studies we perform every day.

1. Nuclear Medicine: In liquid gastric emptying studies, we take pictures of how your child’s stomach empties. To do this, your child eats a meal mixed with a radioactive substance.  The radioactive substance helps us see what is happening inside your child’s body. If your baby is fed breast milk, we mix the radioactive substance with your breast milk and then let your child drink the milk from a bottle.

2. Fluoroscopy: A video swallowing study shows us how efficiently your child swallows. For this study, your child eats and/or drinks a variety of solids and liquids that have different consistencies. For babies, we can create a thin-consistency liquid by mixing breast milk with barium. The barium helps us see the liquid travel from the throat, towards the esophagus and down into the stomach.

3. Ultrasound: A renal ultrasound uses sound waves to show us what the kidneys look like.  If your child is between two months and one year of age, we will ask you to feed her right before the exam. Feeding your child helps to calm her, fill her bladder, and allows our ultrasound technologists to get better pictures.

Baby Breast Feeding

4. CT and MRI: If your child needs a CT scan or an MRI scan, he can be fed with breast milk and then swaddled to keep him comfortable, calm, and still. When little ones move while we are trying to take their picture, the images do not come out very clearly. The feed and swaddle technique allows us to get clear pictures without having to use general anesthesia or sedation.

5. Interventional Radiology: Sometimes your child is given medications that make her sleep through these types of studies. Because of this, she’s not allowed to eat or drink anything for a set amount of time before the procedure, which is referred to as NPO (“nil per os” or “nothing by mouth”). Breast milk, however, is in a category all its own. It can be given up until four hours before a procedure, whereas solid foods and dairy milk have to be stopped 6-8 hours before the study.


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About the author: Alex Towbin

Alex is a radiologist and the Neil D. Johnson Chair of Radiology Informatics. In this role, he helps to manage the information systems used by the Radiology department. Clinically, Alex is the Assistant Director of thoracoabdominal imaging. His research interests include liver disease, liver tumors, inflammatory bowel disease, and appendicitis.