Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Case Against Breast Feeding

Just thought this article was a rather thoughtful rebuttal to how we and many people we know are trying to raise our kids.

This quote pretty much summarizes the conclusion of the article:

"So overall, yes, breast is probably best. But not so much better that formula deserves the label of “public health menace,” alongside smoking. Given what we know so far, it seems reasonable to put breast-feeding’s health benefits on the plus side of the ledger and other things—modesty, independence, career, sanity—on the minus side, and then tally them up and make a decision. But in this risk-averse age of parenting, that’s not how it’s done."

The author basically says that most (if not all) of the studies about breast feeding's benefits are inconclusive, that the popular media's reporting on the benefits of breast feeding are overblown, and that really, it's almost impossible to perform a controlled experiment comparing kids who were breast fed to those who weren't.

Also, she makes an excellent point that mothers who breast feed are by default taking on a much bigger parenting load than their husbands at least until the babies are weaned and that this tends to carry over later...

Just some nice points to consider...

9 comments:

H said...

Oh Scott. Now you're just trying to start an argument. I didn't get through the whole article yet, but I will. I did find it interesting that all researchers agree that there is no real way to do an actual blind study of whether breastfeeding is beneficial. You can't divide a group of women and tell half to breastfeed and the other not to, that would be highly unethical. So this is what I've found most interesting thus far:

"The problem is, breast-fed infants are typically brought up in very different families from those raised on the bottle...the numbers are much higher among women who are white, older, and educated; a woman who attended college, for instance, is roughly twice as likely to nurse for six months."

I think the author of this article would argue that the women mentioned here were being fed misinformation about the absolute benefits of breastfeeding. (again, I haven't finished the article)I would agree that maybe the benefits are possibly not as grand as some would like us to believe, but I really don't know for sure. I can tell you that I fall into that "older, college educated" set of mothers. I also can tell you that I didn't breastfeed because anyone told me to. I tried, it worked, and I kept going for as long as I was comfortable doing so and my children were content with it.

I will also say that the way Nestle marketed infant formula in third world nations was completely inexcusable. I still avoid Nestle products when I have a choice and/or am thinking about it. If I remember correctly, I gleaned this information about Nestle from a college ethics or anthropology class. (maybe that says something for the college educated, I don't know.)

Regardless of research, isn't it clear that God provided a way for us to feed our children? It might be nice that we have found supplements for our new world, but I don't think one could ever have a true case against breastfeeding.

Sara said...

Having not even looked at the rest of the article and going completely off of the small quote, I would say the author just used that title to get your attention. It sounds to me like the author isn't trying to justify either side, but just to break down the devisiveness of this subject, point out the lack of solid scientific evidence and suggest how little it really matters in the long run so why can't we all just get along? Yes, I'm a total attachment parenter, but I also feel that my husband, who was not breastfed, has also turned out to be quite an intelligent, healthy, and contributing member of society. Would you agree?

JRV said...

I saw her on the Today show. BTW, she breastfed all 3 of her children and is currently breastfeeding.
Ill read through the rest of the article before I comment again.
Gotta go to bed now.

Crystal said...

Where do I even begin on this one? You know I have to comment. There may be some things that they can't prove but the simple fact that breastmilk is alive and has hormones, active enzymes, immunoglobulins, anti inflamatory components, cytokines and many more things that they are still discovering. Formula just can't duplicate these things and the human baby just can't absorb forumula's nutrients as well as they can breast milk. You can ask any day care provider if the breast fed babies are healthier and sick less often than their formula fed peers. The answer will always be YES. Also, breastfeeding doesn't create enviromental pollutants like formula does. There's no factory that's pumping out toxic gases and burning fossil fuels to make this fabulous meal for the baby. This things don't have to be proved scientifically. They are just fact. Don't even get me started on how many babies die in 3rd world countries from diahrea, which is totally preventable from mom's breastfeeding. There's really no competition.

Crystal said...

Scott, I hope I didn't steal your thunder but I had to write a blog post about this article. It just irks me when moms try to spread misinformation to excuse other moms not to breastfeed. It's shameful to me. here's my blog link in case you don't have it:
http://myfamileelife.blogspot.com/

Check it out if you want to. I won't be offended if you don't or even if you don't agree with my perspective.

tempe turley said...

Hi Crystal, no offense here...

Obviously I haven't read the research, and I'm not sure that I would have the background to really, truly be able to judge the research if I could...

I just take some comfort in knowing that all hope for the child is not lost if for some reason the child wasn't breast feed (I wasn't breast feed).

I also like the idea that the benefits of breast feeding are definitely real (even the author of the article admitted it), but are not as clear cut to warrant a militant view of it...

I think this fact a lone can assuage some mothers who have to work (single moms, moms with husbands who don't make enough money to support the family)...

So, the article actually makes me feel pretty good all in all. Breast is best, but you can still be a good mom if you don't...

Sara said...

I read about two thirds of the article now. So her point is that the studies don't back up the glorified benefits of breastfeeding. I learned a long time ago to ignore the studies. You can always find some that back you up and some that discredit your point no matter which way you lean on a subject. For me you just have to go with your gut. Breastfeeding makes the most sense for me. I feel that it's right for my children. And I will continue to breastfeed my children despite the fact that some of the supposed protections of breastfeeding have not come to fruition in my family. Take this quote for example:

"In the past decade, researchers have come up with ever more elaborate ways to tease out the truth. One 2005 paper focused on 523 sibling pairs who were fed differently, and its results put a big question mark over all the previous research. The economists Eirik Evenhouse and Siobhan Reilly compared rates of diabetes, asthma, and allergies; childhood weight; various measures of mother-child bonding; and levels of intelligence. Almost all the differences turned out to be statistically insignificant. For the most part, the “long-term effects of breast feeding have been overstated,” they wrote."

Diabetes, check
Asthma, check
Allergies, check

Lizzie, breastfed until 2 has had all of these. (Not to mention ear infections galore.) So obviously there are plenty of other factors in play here.

For this issue and for any other (take vaccinations for example) you just have to read as much as you can from sources you can trust (ie not random people in magazines) and make your own decisions. Then, and this is the hard part, you have to try not to judge others for making theirs...

Rachel said...

I just ran across this blog post on the article and found it an interesting read

http://www.beyondprenatals.com/2009/04/although-this-post-is-little-late-its.html

tempe turley said...

Thanks Rachel, I was going to respond, but I think my previous comments and Sara's pretty much continue to sum up how I feel about the issue.