Thursday, March 6th, 2014
Reading the flurry of recent online commentary about the new study that shows that the benefits of breastfeeding may not be as powerful as we think, reminds me of the way I feel whenever I read a story that reports that marathon running isn’t necessarily so fantastic for your health: Gotcha! Though I enjoy exercise, due to banal body reasons I will never cross a finish line after logging 26.2 miles. And “marathon running is bad for the heart” headlines, no matter how inflamed they may be, give me a wee bit of pleasure.
So it seems to be for those who write about breastfeeding. Put it in its place! Take it down! The Ohio State University study, published online in Social Science & Medicine, appears to have been well-designed without any conflicts of interest. It found that among children age 4 to 14 years, there was no difference between those who were nursed versus those given formula on outcomes, such as body mass index, asthma, hyperactivity and math ability.
And that’s really great news—a relief, really, since even nursing moms need to supplement with formula sometimes. I nursed my younger two daughters until a little after age one, right in sync with what the AAP recommends. My oldest daughter received pumped breast milk until 6 months, and formula after that, and I can say with her teacher’s blessing that she’s not at risk of being crushed in math. In other words, there’s really no difference among my three girls now, though I do emphasize now. As babies, my oldest had more ear infections, and was much more prone to infections, in general, than my younger two. Is it because of the breast milk? Well, we’ll never really know, she was also born premature, but research does show that breast milk passes along immunities that help prevent ear infections, respiratory infections, and diarrhea. Not to mention breast milk is easier to digest than formula (and gas never makes for a happy baby) and, most importantly, reduces the risk of SIDS. Those are benefits not to be dismissed.
It’s time to rephrase our thinking that if a study finds that formula is good, it must mean that breastfeeding isn’t worth the cracked nipples and plugged milk ducts. A step forward for formula doesn’t have to result in a step backward for breast milk. And I would suggest to anyone who thinks that way to do what I do when I feel envious of my marathon-running pals: Sweat it out in a spin class.
To keep track of your baby’s feeding schedule, download our care charts for breastfeeding or formula feeding.
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Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
I couldn’t believe when I heard the news out of the UK–a new program backed by Sheffield University is actually bribing new moms to breastfeed their babies. It works like this–if you breastfeed for the first six weeks, you get 120 British pounds (roughly $190) worth of store credit at supermarkets and popular stores, and if you continue breastfeeding up to six months, you get an additional 80 pounds ($127) worth. I know a lot of you will disagree with me, but this is one of the worst healthy mom/healthy baby ideas I’ve heard in a while.
Nobody’s denying the benefits of breastfeeding are great, and that we need to educate more moms on those takeaways. But we do need to acknowledge that not all women can breastfeed. According to Time, “Dr. Amy Evans, a pediatrician and medical director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine in Fresno, CA, says that as many as five percent of all women have underlying medical conditions that prevent or seriously hinder lactation.” Five percent–that’s five in a hundred. One in twenty. Think of how many moms on your Facebook feed or in the local mommy group that would be. Add to that all the moms whose workplaces make it nearly impossible to continue breastfeeding after a certain amount of time, and those whose babies have food allergies making breastfeeding incredibly difficult, and you’ve got quite a few moms who, due to no fault of their own, can’t breastfeed.
We need to stop punishing those moms (sorry, no store vouchers for you!) and start trusting women to do what’s best for their families in their own unique situations. The saying “breast is best” is only true when it’s possible and practical for the mom and her family. It’s one thing to invest time and money in helping women learn how to properly breastfeed (a service that’s severely lacking for the vast majority of moms), and a completely different thing to villainize those who go a different route. I’ve seriously had it with misguided advocates who essentially liken formula-feeding to child abuse—who do they think they are, judging other moms without knowing their lives?! (Besides, I know tons of healthy, happy, smart, educated, and successful adults who were exclusively formula-fed . . . so even if formula’s not the best, it can’t be that bad, can it?!)
Here’s my recommendation: Instead of bribing moms to breastfeed, try spending that money on more education and lactation support. I think we’d see the numbers of breastfed babies going up (for the right reasons!) and we’d avoid slamming a lot of moms who are just doing the best they can for their little ones.
TELL US: Do you buy into this program, or do you think it’s crazy to pay moms to breastfeed?
Check out our favorite breastfeeding helpers.
Image of woman trying to breastfeed via Shutterstock.
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