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Thread: Is (it) Really Best?

  1. Mombie.
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    #1

    Is (it) Really Best?

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    [I changed the title of the post because I didn't know how people would react to "breast" being in there.]

    We see a lot of pro-bf'ing studies and I was curious as to what else was out there.

    Both sides are pretty interesting. This is a slighty older article, but one that I find to be a good read anyhow.

    Is Breast Really Best? Are the benefits of breastfeeding exaggerated? | Babble

    I am not against breastfeeding, nor do I support child abuse, and I am not being paid by the formula industry. I have been accused of all three, most recently in reader comments on an interview I did for MacLean’s magazine. Ironically, it was precisely this kind of vitriol that first inspired me to write Is Breast Best?. I wanted to understand how breastfeeding has come to be perceived as the holy grail of health and formula-feeding as the equivalent of giving a baby nicotine. I wanted to have a better sense of why parents have come to believe that how they feed their baby might be the most important decision they’ll ever make and why our public conversations about baby feeding have become so toxic.

    What I discovered is that our certainty that “breast is best” far exceeds what the evidence tells us. This misguided confidence in breastfeeding stems from our poor understanding of science. It also comes from the (often unconscious) belief that mothers are all-powerful and that if they try hard enough, they can eliminate risk and produce completely healthy children. We’d like to believe both that the research tells us more than it does and that mothers have a lot more control – and deserve a lot more blame – than they actually do.

    In short, writing my book made clear to me that debates about baby feeding are so hostile because they are about so much more than what’s best for babies. And the result of these debates is a culture in which mothers who do not breastfeed are portrayed as harming their children.

    I don’t claim that there are no differences between children who have been breast- or bottle-fed. Thousands of studies find that the average breastfed baby is healthier than the average formula-fed baby. What they haven’t found is compelling evidence that breastfeeding causes better health. As the old saying goes, correlation does not equal causation. The better health of breastfed babies could well be due, in part or completely, to other things that breastfeeding moms are doing, not to the breast milk itself.

    For example, if you make sure everyone who touches your baby washes their hands first, if you keep your baby away from the grocery store at 5:00, if you can afford to have someone care for your baby in your home, you’re probably doing a lot to reduce your baby’s chances of getting an infection. If you encourage your child to eat healthy foods and to exercise, you’re contributing to healthy body weight. If you read to and have meaningful conversations with your child, you’re stimulating cognitive development.

    In fact, if you do the research, you’ll find that it’s not uncommon for scientists to stress the benefits of breastfeeding and at the same time acknowledge that it’s not clear whether some babies are better off because they are or were breast-fed or because they have caretakers who are willing and able to promote good health in other ways. [See, for example, Matthew W. Gilman et. al., "Risk of Overweight among Adolescents Who Were Breastfed," Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001; Erik Lykke Mortensen et. al., "The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence," Journal of the American Medical Association, 2002.]

    Breastfeeding advocates, meanwhile, argue that the sheer number of studies connecting breastfeeding with healthier babies makes the benefits of breastfeeding irrefutable. What they don’t mention is that lots of studies, including many published in top research journals, find that breastfeeding has little or no medical benefit. [See, among others, Catharine Gale et. al., "Breastfeeding, the Use of Docosahexaenoic Acid-Fortified Formulas in Infancy and Neuropsychological Function in Childhood," Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2009; and Michael S. Kramer et. al., "Effect of Prolonged and Exclusive Breastfeeding on Risk of Allergy and Asthma: Cluster Randomized Trial," British Medical Journal, 2007.] They also fail to point out that you can’t fix errors or gaps in the research with quantity; if you have one study that is seriously flawed or that can’t account for an alternative explanation, having 10 or 100 similar studies doesn’t make the problem go away.

    There is pretty strong evidence that breastfeeding helps reduce gastrointestinal (GI) infections, but even here we need to be careful not to overstate its benefits. One of the most widely respected studies on breastfeeding [Michael Kramer et. al., "Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT): A Randomized Trial in the Republic of Belarus," Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001] indicated that for every twenty-five breastfed babies there would be one fewer GI infection in the first year. That’s a benefit, but it’s fairly minimal, and parents need to decide whether the benefit is worth the cost.

    And breastfeeding has real costs. The blogosphere is full of testimonials from women who suffered horrible emotional distress and depression from breastfeeding [See, for example, reader responses to the New York Times article, "Breastfeed or Else," June 20, 2006]. Just because you don’t pay cash for it doesn’t mean breastfeeding is free.

    Another way some advocates push the superiority of breastfeeding is by promoting the idea that breastfeeding is “natural” and therefore must be superior to “artificial” formula. Yet humans do all sorts of things that other mammals don’t, and many of them are “unnatural,” if by that you mean that they manipulate or circumvent nature. Birth control is unnatural, but so are refrigeration, pasteurization, automobiles, and air conditioning. “Unnatural” does not necessarily mean “unhealthy.”

    Most people – mothers included – endorse breastfeeding at least in part because they have a poor understanding and consuming fear of risk. Formula can be contaminated in production, the thinking goes, so why take the risk? Better safe than sorry. But, in addition to the short and long-term risks of breastfeeding for mothers, “natural” breastfeeding poses risks for babies, too. You’d probably be unhappy if you knew exactly what was in your breast milk; in fact, milk is such a good conduit for toxins like lead and DDT that toxicologists often use it to assess environmental contamination. [See, for example, Betsy Lozoff et. al., "Higher Infant Blood Levels with Longer Duration of Breastfeeding," Journal of Pediatrics, 2009; Philip Landrigan et. al., "Chemical Contaminants in Breast Milk and Their Impacts on Children's Health," Environmental Health Perspectives, 2002.] This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t breastfeed; what it means is that science simply has been unable to determine if there are long-term effects of these pollutants. Unfortunately, we just don’t know.

    As parents, we make myriad risky decisions every day. Car brakes can malfunction; does that keep you from putting your baby in the car? The truth is that our culture pays more attention to some baby health risks than others, and these tend to be the ones that mothers are expected to alleviate. What’s optimal for a baby gets defined in terms of what mothers can do to optimize.

    Certainly mothers (and fathers) should be expected to make sacrifices for their children. What bothers me is that mothers (and not fathers) are expected to prevent virtually any risk to their babies, regardless of how unlikely or poorly understood that risk is or what it will cost them in the process.

    I would argue that how you feed your baby (in a developed country with reliable access to clean water) is largely a lifestyle choice and that in the overwhelming majority of cases, either breastfeeding or formula-feeding is a healthy option. These, today, are fighting words, and they lead almost invariably to a conversation in which, by defending formula, I am cast as being against breastfeeding.

    But what I’m against, really, is misinformation and the use of breastfeeding – or not breastfeeding – to make mothers feel bad about themselves.

    Some women find breastfeeding deeply rewarding, and for them, breastfeeding is the right choice. Others find that formula-feeding works much better, and for them, breastfeeding is the wrong choice. We all know terrific mothers who formula-feed, and plenty of formula-fed babies are as healthy as those who are breastfed. Science has not demonstrated that breastfeeding has serious health advantages, and we need to stop making claims that breastfeeding is the only choice for mothers who care about their children.
    And honestly, this isn't to start a fight. This is just because I enjoy seeing both sides. Plus, she is an advocate for what fits in for YOU. I like that she is pro both.



  2. BingBangBoom that's how babies are made
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    #2


    I read this before & really enjoyed it. I hate people who act like formula is the devil.

    "Thank you so much. No matter what, nothing is possible without you behind the scenes bustin heads and takin names. Thank you again. Everything you have done for me means a lot and nothing has gone unnoticed. I love you so much and thank you for saying 'I do.'"
  3. cuz i'm wonderful
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    #3
    At the end of the day, a happy mom is the best thing. If breastfeeding doesn't work and makes a person miserable, that's no good for the baby. Period.

    I do think that breastmilk would be the "nutritionally sounder" option, but not so much as to actually HARM a child or DEPRIVE it, really. It's just that formula is missing 200,000 of the components found in breast milk, as well as the antibodies and happy healthy stuff in it. So, would I personally rather breast feed than formula feed? Yes. Would I do it if it made me so miserable I cried ten times a day? Hell no. Those 200,000 components are not worth being miserable. I think every mom has a choice to make, and whichever one works for her is the right one. No mom should ever feel badly that she didn't breastfed.
  4. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
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    #4
    I like the pro both thing too ... let's all just be pro-feeding-your-child!
  5. Keep Calm and Ride Unicorns
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    #5
    I have a hard time with these mompetitions that put FF against BFing.

    Breastfeeding is natural, it is biological, and it has some clear and awesome benefits over formula feeding. Claiming that, studying it, and stating the facts surrounding that is NOT an accusation or an attack. It is what it is, and taking it personally just leads to hurt feelings when that isn't the point.

    Formula feeding is not poison, choosing not to breastfeed doesn't make a mom a bad parent, and treating it as such only makes moms feel guilty or get defensive which increases the ridiculous competitions that go on between parents. For the mothers who can't BF, because of biology or because of misinformation that led to lack of supply, don't need to be made feel guilty for something they didn't want to happen, and FF moms who decided not to even try have the right to feed their baby however they want.

    We should be supporting each other, not competing against each other. Parenting is hard enough without this stuff going on. If people would take BFing and FF at face value, it would be a much better world IMO. Such a stupid thing to argue over (I am speaking in generalities).


  6. I was the perfect mom, until I had kids.
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    #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Sindorella View Post
    I have a hard time with these mompetitions that put FF against BFing.

    Breastfeeding is natural, it is biological, and it has some clear and awesome benefits over formula feeding. Claiming that, studying it, and stating the facts surrounding that is NOT an accusation or an attack. It is what it is, and taking it personally just leads to hurt feelings when that isn't the point.

    Formula feeding is not poison, choosing not to breastfeed doesn't make a mom a bad parent, and treating it as such only makes moms feel guilty or get defensive which increases the ridiculous competitions that go on between parents. For the mothers who can't BF, because of biology or because of misinformation that led to lack of supply, don't need to be made feel guilty for something they didn't want to happen, and FF moms who decided not to even try have the right to feed their baby however they want.

    We should be supporting each other, not competing against each other. Parenting is hard enough without this stuff going on. If people would take BFing and FF at face value, it would be a much better world IMO. Such a stupid thing to argue over (I am speaking in generalities).


    I'm pro-feeding....I don't care how, as long as you're feeding your children


  7. Mombie.
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    #7


    Pro-feeding is a fantastic term.



  8. Keep Calm and Ride Unicorns
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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by sqrllvr123 View Post


    Pro-feeding is a fantastic term.
    Love it. That's me. PRO-FEEDING.

    Just don't let the little bugger starve and we will be A-OK.


  9. Mombie.
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    #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Sindorella View Post
    Love it. That's me. PRO-FEEDING.

    Just don't let the little bugger starve and we will be A-OK.





  10. Senior Member
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    #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Sindorella View Post
    I have a hard time with these mompetitions that put FF against BFing.

    Breastfeeding is natural, it is biological, and it has some clear and awesome benefits over formula feeding. Claiming that, studying it, and stating the facts surrounding that is NOT an accusation or an attack. It is what it is, and taking it personally just leads to hurt feelings when that isn't the point.

    Formula feeding is not poison, choosing not to breastfeed doesn't make a mom a bad parent, and treating it as such only makes moms feel guilty or get defensive which increases the ridiculous competitions that go on between parents. For the mothers who can't BF, because of biology or because of misinformation that led to lack of supply, don't need to be made feel guilty for something they didn't want to happen, and FF moms who decided not to even try have the right to feed their baby however they want.

    We should be supporting each other, not competing against each other. Parenting is hard enough without this stuff going on. If people would take BFing and FF at face value, it would be a much better world IMO. Such a stupid thing to argue over (I am speaking in generalities
    ).

    Its so true. Its so I could cry ...
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