Tag Archives: breast-feeding

‘Breastfeeding Benefits Overstated’ & Insight from a Lactation Consultant

5 Mar

You may have recently seen big headlines about breastfeeding. Things that read like this, “Breast-Feeding Benefits have Been Drastically Overstated.” I’ll admit that I read three other headlines and half an article before realizing that this study wasn’t exactly what I thought it was.photo 1-1

First off, this was a longitudinal study showing the impact of breastfeeding to children long-term (I know, I just restated that), particularly looking at behavior and performance outcomes after the age of 4. The study was different in that it tried to control for selection bias, namely that women who breast-feed are more advantaged. They did this by looking at sibling pairs, one of which was breastfed and the other bottle-fed.

The results showed that when all kids were compared, the ones who were breastfed performed better (no different than what has been shown in the past), but when only looking at families, the siblings performed about the same on intelligence, health and other outcomes. That’s it…in a very quick overview. But you can read more about the study here.

So here’s where it gets personal. This is a blog, right, so I get to talk about the things that interest me. I’ll go ahead and say up front that I am a working mom who breastfeeds. It’s hard and I pump between meetings and…well I’ll leave it at that. But I will also mention that I didn’t choose to breastfeed because I thought it would make my baby smarter. I did/am doing it mainly because it’s a great way to feel confident that Gray gets the nutrients he needs; that he is less likely to get sick and when you’re in daycare that’s extra important; because it’s free; and because it’s healthier for me and my body. Done. End of story. Now you know way too much about why I breastfeed.

When I read those headlines I automatically thought that one of my core reasons for doing all this pumping and baby begging was going to be compromised, but despite the fact that they never come straight out and say it in these articles, not one of my reasons for breastfeeding was discredited. I think it is AWESOME to make women feel better about their choice not to breastfeed for any number of reasons – they can’t physically make it happen; their jobs won’t allow it, etc. But I do feel like we need to be careful about making too many broad statements – like “breastfeeding is way overrated” – because it can send a bad messages out about an already threatened and weakened practice.

If it isn’t enough that women have to convince their bosses to support them pumping at work (luckily, not something I have to deal with but I hear about it all the time), or that we have jump through hoops to hide our breasts when feeding our children in public (God forbid we try to keep those babies alive!), I’m now staring at headlines all over the U.S. that help undermine breastfeeding further. Now don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe that valid, reliable research needs to be conducted and this study was indeed very insightful. But at the end of the day we have to ask ourselves why we breastfeed or don’t and stay away from sensationalized headlines…and hope the findings don’t get used and abused by those who make life harder for breastfeeding mamas and the daddies who support them.

So anyways, I’ll boil it down. I read the study and I still breastfeed and feel like it’s the best option for me and Gray.

I reached out to lactation consultant Marie Davis, RN, IBCLC, to get her thoughts on the new study as well. I loved her quick, clear advice. She knows how to get down to business. She also provides lactation consultant services via email. 


What does this new study mean for moms who plan to breastfeed?
Nothing’s changed. She should base her plans on what she feels is best for her baby. Moms need to trust their instincts.

What’s the big takeaway?
Ignore the study. The results were sensationalized because they were so far away from the norm. For every study like this one there are a hundred showing the benefits

Does this study in any way effect the conclusions the medical community currently holds regarding breastfeeding’s impact to the health and immunity of newborns and babies?
No, the medical community still believes that breastfeeding, human milk feeding is the way babies should be fed. Formula has a set of risks even in an industrialized society with clean water supplies. People need to be more aware of those risks. We have to stop talking about the “benefits of breastfeeding” and discuss the risks of formula feeding.

Up until what age is breastfeeding still considered beneficial for health?
Seriously? Breast milk is given to cancer patients to help their immune systems. The benefits are always there. Just because the AAP says “one year” doesn’t mean mom’s milk magically changes on a baby’s first birthday. Moms should breastfeed for as long as THEY want to, because THEY want to.

Are there other benefits of breastfeeding?
Again it is not the benefits of breastfeeding we should be discussing, but the risks of formula feeding.I believe that breastfeeding is the biological norm; science cannot improve on biology.

Anything else you’d like to add?
First, human milk is a species-specific living fluid. It is unique to every mother and every infant. That uniqueness cannot be replaced or copied. Science can try to replace or copy the general components, but they can only make second rate copies. Formula is a huge industry and they put lots of money into advertisement, into convincing people that formula is almost the same as breastmilk. Formula companies also pay for research.

Second, because human milk is the biologic norm people should be asking “How sick, how allergic–etc.. would a child be if not breastfed?” Breastfeeding doesn’t guarantee a baby will be the next Einstein, won’t get sick , won’t have allergies or won’t get diabetes, but human milk won’t contribute to or compound problems.

Learn more about Marie Davis here: www.lactationconsultant.info

%d bloggers like this: