Interesting Article on Breastfeeding

A MMW reader by the name of Cat sent me a link to this NY times article regarding breastfeeding. It has some great stuff, and I agree that it should be passed along - enjoy!


Blogger Tracy M said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/18/2006 01:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

It's a really good article. I do worry that women who CAN'T breastfeed don't need more guilt or a big warning label on cans of formula like on cigarettes- that's just not fair. Formula and cigarettes are NOT in the SAME league of dangerous things to ingest. *sigh

6/18/2006 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

I guess the question, tracy m, is whether the guilt caused to the (relatively small) number of women who can't breastfeed is a justifiable trade-off if the warning labels encourage the (large numbers) of other women to breastfeed.

(If you've spent any amount of time with mothers-to-be who plan to bottle feed because they have literally NO CLUE of the advantages of breastfeeding, you might think the tradeoff worthwhile. I do.)

6/18/2006 02:00:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

I think it's good because only 2-5% of women can't breastfeed for medical reasons. Although a lot more women think they can't. And--if we lived in a third world country not breastfeeding is far worse than cigarettes.

6/18/2006 09:01:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

There's a lot of claims in there that seem to ignore other causal factors. Non breastfed babies have lower IQs, just because they are fed formula? What about genetics and the environment? It seems to me that it would be impossible to tease out the myriad of other factors that go into the development of children to the point where you could point to one single causal factor and say, "There. If you don't breastfeed, your kid will be a dunce."

I'm not saying I am against nursing--I am not, not at all. I loved nursing, but could only do it for 8 months. And, incidentally, my son did get pneumonia as an infant, even though he was exclusively breastfed. He got it just as my milk supply started to dwindle, but is that enough evidence to suggest that if I hadn't given him those first bottles of formula, he would've stayed healthy? The reality was, though, that if I hadn't given him those bottles of formula, he would have starved, because my body definitely wasn't making enough milk. Starvation vs. pneumonia--hmm, I think I'll take a disease that can be handled with antiobotics over certain death, please, Alex.

And I think of women who are adoptive parents--they can't breastfeed their children, and yet the kids seem to turn out ok. Like I said, I am actually a huge advocate of breastfeeding, and could totally buy into the idea that babies who get breastfed are healthier as babies. But once you get past a certain age, there seems to be a lot more going on in a child's life than just eating, sleeping, and pooping, and you can imagine those things play a large part in some of the causal relationships this article is claiming belong to breastfeeding.

Just sayin'....

6/18/2006 09:57:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

But even after all the factors like parents education, etc are taken into account, children who are breastfed do score higher on IQ tests. Yes, that does not mean your kid will be a dunce---but it may effect the number of synopsis in their brains (there is a study about this).
I also breastfed my son and he too got pneumonia. It is important to remember that just because you breastfeed doesn't make kids completely immune---and No Claims These studies say that. But statistically over all they will be less sick. That is simply a fact.
No one is saying kids who aren't breastfed aren't going to turn out normal either. (By the way, adopted infants can sometimes still be breastfed). But it is still best for them, just like eating oatmeal instead of fruit loops for breakfast.

6/18/2006 10:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Sara R said...

I loved nursing my 3 babies, over a year each. With the first baby, nursing was a real struggle at first, but it came easily with the last two.

I got breast cancer anyway (age 32) and had a bilateral mastectomy.

I'm probably done having babies, but if I did have another one, it would get formula. I would be sad about that, but I wouldn't feel a bit guilty about that. I've got a pretty logical personality. I would worry about other hormonal-emotional new mothers who may not be able to nurse. I think not being able to nurse is more common than LLL-types would admit.

I don't like the comparison with smoking while pregnant, because it is within the power of any mother to not smoke while pregnant. But not every mother is physically able to breastfeed.

6/18/2006 10:44:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

I have a close friend who is a RN and professional LC and has been for 30 years---She is the one I got the statistics from--Not being able to breastfeed in really not that common. I am not trying to say that formula is bad--or that mothers should feel guilty if they really can't breasfeed--

6/18/2006 10:49:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

Also--nobody says that their is a guarantee that you won't get cancer if you breastfeed--but the chances of getting it are lower.

6/18/2006 10:56:00 PM  
Blogger Trivial Mom said...

I really don't think that a warning label is necessary. Not in the warning label fashion. Maybe a paragraph about the benefits of breastfeeding.

But not a label that says "warning: formula is not the best thing out their for your baby". If we're going to do that then the lucky charms, fruit snacks, processed cheese food, and practically half the rest of the grocery store also needs a label stating that real cheese would be better. Or "please eat oatmeal and grapefruit instead of sugar cereal and kool-aid."

I mean come on, isn't that a little extreme?

6/19/2006 12:00:00 AM  
Anonymous em said...

I agree with you trivial mom, it sounds silly when you put it that way--even ridiculous. But I think most moms really don't know the benefits. But most moms do know that fruit snacks aren't good for their kids--maybe. I'm not sure about that--there is a childhood obesity problem...

6/19/2006 12:31:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

I second what Trivial Mom said.

Perhaps education about breastfeeding benefits is a better place to start than a horrid label equating formula with damaging your baby. I don't know ANY mothers who need more guilt or stress- even those of us who support breastfeeding without hesitation. But then I'm a little bit sensitive on this topic.

Some of you sound like the women who give me dirty looks when I pull out a bottle and give it to my newborn- I WILL NOT explain to everyone I meet that the bottle is painfully expressed breastmilk and my medical history as to why. Cut the mama's some slack, ladies- you never know who you are looking at.
Sorry, like I said, I'm a little sensitive...

Education is the key, not frightening and guilting mothers.

6/19/2006 12:34:00 AM  
Anonymous em said...

I think the label is like education. I think some of you are really sensitive. Not everyone that is pro-breastfeeding winces at bottles. I really think it is ridiculous to not put a label on a product because some moms might feel bad. That's absurd! Don't let people know about the risks of something because their feelings might be hurt?
And what kind of education are you suggesting? Because it seems to me very few people know about breastfeeding--and where will they get the info? LLL has already been bad mouthed. So where else? I am aware that there are many sources, but obviously it isn't educating people--so what's wrong with a label?
Why can't moms just be rational? If they need formula for medical reasons, then they need it. Why would anyone bat an eye? And if they did, who cares?
I really think moms are way too sensitive about thier mothering. I guess that is normal though.

6/19/2006 01:56:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Em- you said you agreed with Trivial Mom, that the label, in the light she shed on it, was absurd... Then in your very next comment, you are back to labeling the formula. What gives?

All formula cans and ads already say "Breastmilk is best for your baby"- you need more? Why? Let me put labels on any food you eat that is in-organic, telling you that you really should not be giving your child pesticides.

Every doctor I have ever seen has talked up breasfeeding. Most mothers-to-be pour over the mama magazines- and they all tout breastfeeding. For each of my three babies, a LLC has visiting me in my hospital room, and the nurses have all been very supportive of breastfeeding.

Part of the reason the LLL has a bad rap is because of the total lack of tollerance for alternative feeding methods. Before you get up in arms, I have been to LLL meetings, and have good friends who are members. The group has done good things.

BUT, like I said, cut the mama's who choose differently some slack.

6/19/2006 11:33:00 AM  
Anonymous em said...

I am not saying those who choose differnently are wrong. I am simply for labeling. I really think it is educational. I think the problem may be here that I am assuming the label will simply say more emphatically that breastmilk is best--and seems you are assuming that the label will say Danger! or something along those lines. In reality, we don't know what the label is.
I guess I don't have anymore to say about the issue.
(I have used bottles my self).

6/19/2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I agree with you about the education thing, but I am still not totally sold that you can point to kids with high IQ and tease out an exact correllation between breast fed vs. bottle fed. The article also mentioned that breast fed babies are less at risk for childhood obesity. Could it possibly be a different factor that is playing into this, like, say, a mother who breastfeeds is more interested in her child's nutritional intake, and therefore feeds her child good food and teaches him to make good choices than a mother who doesn't choose to breastfeed? Or a mother who chooses to breastfeed is a mother who is involved, interested, and an educated woman who provides a stimulating envrionment for her children, and thus allowing for more advanced cognitive development--aren't these also possible causal factors for the results this study is claiming are related to breastfeeding?

And Tracy pointed out that there are existing labels that say something along the lines of "The APA recommends breastfeeing as a primary source of nutrition", or something like that. Seems that the message is already out there, and I just don't think studies that show that kids 10 years down the line who are breastfed are in better shape can really hold up. There are just so many other things that go into a child's development, I would think it would be impossible to point to one factor and say, "That's the magic key!" We'd all like that, sure, but we all know that parenting is so much complex than that.

6/19/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

The body of research on obesity and breastfeeding is vast. All of the factors you have mentioned have been accounted for in the studies. Even after all these factors are factored out, breastfeeding is still shown to be protective against breastfeeding. In fact, it is protective month by month. For every month a child is breastfed--they are less likely to be obese.

I really don't think this label is going to happen anyway--so this discussion is somewhat moot.

Also--please don't think I am being intolerant. I hate being accused of accusing other mothers of being wrong and bad mothers just because I disagree. (Yes, I realize the irony of myself accusing other mothers of accusing me.)

I guess what I hate about these breastfeeding discussions is someone saying they disagree with research--with no grounds for disagreeing except personal point of view.
Deciding to breast or bottle feed is a personal decision--but don't discount research just because you haven't read it and therefore don't understand it just to justify your decision to bottle feed.

I am glad formula exists--it saves babies lives. I am also glad we have a choice to breast or bottle feed here. In Malaysia you can only buy formula by perscription.

6/19/2006 02:56:00 PM  
Blogger Starfoxy said...

The thing that bothers me is that these they are willing to legislate requirements for warnings on cans of formula before they legislate breastfeeding protection laws. I would rather see them mandate lactation leave, guarantee protection from indecent exposure laws, and put out programs that attempt to de-sexualize the breast before they start telling us how dangerous formula is.
Guilting mothers for not breastfeeding while doing nothing to change what makes bottle feeding necessary does nothing except put women and mothers down.

6/19/2006 03:07:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

I agree StarFoxy. I work in lactation (as if you couldn't have guessed). The fact is that the number one reason women don't breastfeed in this country is body image and the perception of the breast. I think in lacatation we LOVE to say just educate, educate, educate---and then women will breastfeed. It makes us feel like we can fix something. Maybe the government is doing the same thing.
But the bottom line is that it is MUCH harder to change body image, etc---and public perceptions of breastfeeding in public.
You can't pass a law that women will feel good about their bodies.

6/19/2006 03:21:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/19/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous em said...

"Could it possibly be a different factor that is playing into this, like, say, a mother who breastfeeds is more interested in her child's nutritional intake, and therefore feeds her child good food and teaches him to make good choices than a mother who doesn't choose to breastfeed? Or a mother who chooses to breastfeed is a mother who is involved, interested, and an educated woman who provides a stimulating envrionment for her children, and thus allowing for more advanced cognitive development--aren't these also possible causal factors for the results this study is claiming are related to breastfeeding?"

Nope Tracy--directed at Heather for the aboove comment. I'm not even saying she bottlefed--just in general to people who question research.

and I totally understand being skeptical about hte whole higher IQ thing---as I was skeptical. But a group that analyzes research used 8 studies and came to that conlcusion. They had no agenda--they just analyze studies. Again all the factors you mentioned were taken into account.

6/19/2006 03:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you busy today Em? Doing anything else? Don't let it get you so hyped up. We're all trying our best.

6/19/2006 08:39:00 PM  
Blogger Julie M. Smith said...

Heather O.,

I'm surprised at your dismissal of the studies: do you know for a fact that they aren't controlling for other factors? Because my understanding is that there is virtually no dispute about the advantages of breastfeeding--the only issue is how and whether bfding advocacy should be done.

6/19/2006 08:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't judge a woman for not being able to breastfeed or choosing not to because of extenuating circumstances, but I will be honest and say that I did feel judgmental towards a friend who didn't breastfeed at all because she heard that if she didn't, her breasts would get bigger. I didn't think it was right to put her vanity before the health of her child.

6/19/2006 09:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Breastfed babies have higher IQ's than babies fed non-fortified formula, and identical IQ's compared with babies fed formula which has been fortified in Omega-3 fatty acids.

Breastfeeding decreases an infant's likelihood of getting sick. Having fewer children also decreases an infant's likelihood of getting sick. What might we package with warnings to let women who choose to have more than one child know that this decision also is analagous to smoking while pregnant? Tricky, tricky. But we must be fair.

I have read a fair number of studies about the benefits of breastfeeding, and have certainly read enough to be convinced that the above effects hold true when all other factors (including a mother's dedication to providing good nutrition for her children) are accounted for. I have not seen anything so thorough connecting breastfeeding to obesity. Can anyone point me to a good thorough study? I am interested.

6/19/2006 09:16:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


I am not dismissing the research, I am just remaining skeptical. And although I don't know if they controlled for all of those factors, because this is a NY Times article and not a medical journal, I would think that it would be difficult to do so. I liked this quote from the article:

Dr. Myron Peterson, director of medical affairs for Cato Research, a private independent research organization which reviewed the literature on breast-feeding for the council, said that studies have found a link between nursing and health benefits but that they do not prove a causal relationship. "It's like the old statement about the rooster crowing making the sun come up," he said. "If you did an observational study on that, what would you say?"

I think it would be easy to look at 1000 babies and see who is healthiest, and contribute that to breastfeeding. But to look at an obese child who is, say, 6, and claim that he wouldn't be obese if he had been breastfed seems a little bit outrageous to me. Any kid can get fat if you feed him the right kind of junk.

I also agree that protecting how a mother feels who doesn't want to breastfeed is a pretty lame argument for not publishing the benefits of breastfeeding, and I am forever grateful to the excellent outreach programs, education, and lactation support I received at the hospital when J was born. No Nazis, just concerned nurses who were committed to giving me the best information about what was best for my child. But I still remain skeptical of any study that says the only reason a child is fat is because his mother gave him a bottle.

6/19/2006 09:40:00 PM  
Blogger Mrs. M said...

Hey, you sillies, I posted about this 5 days ago:) It's ok, I have very low traffic since I only post once in a while. I'm just glad there is some discussion going on. It's certainly nice to feel affirmed about breastfeeding, but I am not sure labels are the way to go.

6/20/2006 12:31:00 AM  
Anonymous sara r said...

One thing to be aware of is that sometimes women don't nurse for very personal reasons that they are not eager to publicize. One of my relatives got Hepatitis C from an 80s blood transfusion. She was living in Wymount and had her first baby. She couldn't nurse and understandably didn't want to tell the world why. I think some people wound up assuming that it was for vanity's sake.

I think the impact of stronger labeling would be pretty limited. The best time for breastfeeding education is prenatally and immediately after birth in the hospital. After my first child's birth, the hospital had a "right start" clinic that you went to a few days after the birth to make sure everything was going okay as far as feeding goes. That visit hooked me up with an LC and it helped me be able to breastfeed my first child.

Labels on a can would only tell a woman more strongly what she already should know, that breastfeeding is best. It might potentially help a mother who is just barely switching to formula for selfish reasons, or perhaps it might help a mother enduring breastfeeding problems become more motivated to go through heroic efforts to continue to breastfeed. But after that small window of opportunity, the mother (probably) can't go back to breastfeeding. (Yes, I know that relactation is sometimes possible--I kind of did it with one kid--but that goes in the category of "heroic effort.") It's not as though a mother can choose to breastfeed after formula feeding for 5 months. It would just be rubbing her nose in the fact that she cannot give "the best" to her child.

6/20/2006 01:37:00 AM  
Anonymous em said...


Morrow-Tlucak, M. et al. Breastfeeding and cognitive development in the first 2 years of life. Soc Sci Med 1988
Morley R. et al. Mother's choice to provide breast milk and developmental outcome. Arch Dis Child 1988

Lucas, A. et al. Breast milk and subsequent intelligence quotient in children born preterm. Lancet 1992;339:261-62
Rogan, W. et al. Breastfeeding and cognitive development. Early Hum Dev 1993;31:181-93

No one says that is the ONLY factor.
In adults who were breastfed--it has not been shown to be a factor in obesity.

6/20/2006 01:59:00 AM  
Anonymous em said...

Having more children increases the likely hood of illness, and boosts immunity. I would really like to see a study that shows formula with omega 3 boosts IQ as much as breastmilk--because the studies I've seen contradict that.

Ok--I'm out of this.

6/20/2006 02:32:00 AM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Great, Em, that's fantastic. No one, NO ONE is disputing that breastfeeding is best. Criminy, I PUMPED every ouce my first child ate for 8 MONTHS to provide him with my milk. And when I pulled out those bottles, I SAW the looks-Some of you even dared to say things to me. I went to a LLL meeeting, and when I pulled out my bottle, the women gasped in horror. It didn't matter that it was full of MY milk that my son could not get any other way. I thought LLL was supposed to be about the milk...?

The point is, ADS AND FORMULA already say breastfeeding is the best choice- so what are you arguing about????

The root of this, IMHO per normal for breastfeeding AND natural childbirth advocates, seems to be an every so slight air of moral superiority. (and I have done it BOTH ways)

YES BOOBS MAKE BETTER MILK. Any reglar MMW readers know how I feel about breastfeeding. And I am currently nursing my third. (Post surgery, which helped to make it possible)

The thing is, no study in the world will convince me if you took my child, who was nursed, and placed them with my hillbilly relatives (I can say that, they are mine) to be raised, that the breastmilk would buoy my child's growth and developement in spite of the environmental factors.

Nurture, nature, parenting, environment, economics (like it or not) all play a role in how my child developes. Heather had valid points- the charts in the article point out the the more educated a woman, the more likely she is to breastfeed- does the fact that the parents are educated, or have a highter than average IQ not play a part in the intelligence of their offspring? At least as much as the type of milk the child drinks?

Even if some mother wants to use formula for her boobs' vanity sake, (not my choice) who am I to tell her "No". It's none of my damn business.

I'm done here.

6/20/2006 02:45:00 AM  
Blogger Karen said...

Read the book Freakonomics. I think it supports the ideas Tracy made for "higher education, higher intellect"

I agree that better prenatal education and more support when first starting out would do the most good to increase breastfeeding. That being said it is probably not those of us reading this thread that need to be convinced that breast is best. We realize this and will do our best for our babies.(See Tracy M.) Somehow it needs to be taught to those who don't "get it". But for years formula was put forward are better that breast, (that breastfeeding was somehow lower class) so it takes a lot of effort to undo something like that. Maybe they need to get some big stars lined up to talk about breastfeeding, because some people would listen to them. Like Brooke Sheilds and her talking about her depresssion.

6/20/2006 10:53:00 AM  
Blogger The Wiz said...

I'm trying really hard not to be offended by the fact that this post, where I said virtually nothing, just posted a link, got more comments than any of the posts where I said stuff. Hee Hee.

6/20/2006 04:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear heavens people! You'd think that after having this conversation for the last gazillion years we would've learned that we all believe differently!!
Yes, the breast is best, I read that on my sons formula cans. I also was told that in my doctors office. But you know what....for him it wasn't. Talk to me all day about smarter and stronger, but when he dropped below the 5th percentile.....well, I didn't care if his IQ was higher, as long as he lived.
Besides, I know many, MANY people with high IQ's who are complete idiots, not really a factor in actual intelligence imho.
How dare any of you make judgements on how I, or any other woman, care for my child. It may be different for you, but every child is different. Formula's nutritional content is regulated by the government. That is so EVERY child has the opportunity to be well-fed and grow.
Let's worry about people hurting and abandoning their babies, or the parents that never let their baby see life outside the womb. How about thinking about children who would benefit from formula, like those in underdeveloped and undernourished countries? Kind of makes being right seem unimportant doesn't it?
We're all different, we all think and feel differently about things. But putting labels on everything we don't agree with is just silly and irresponsible. I'll put a label on red meat that says "this will likely clog your arteries and endanger your health", then YOU can put a label on tofu that says "this doesn't provide everything you need nutritionally and could lead to health problems". Or we could just sell ONE food product and MAKE everyone eat healthy, free will be damned.
Anyone else see a problem with this?

6/20/2006 07:22:00 PM  
Blogger nestle said...

wow, and yikes.

1. from several of "em"'s websites
"adjustment for confounders obliterated the effect of breastfeeding" [for obesity]

2. Ever thought that many of the women who formula feed their kids had to go back to work because they were the bread winners of the family? Or that hey, maybe not everyone was blessed to provide enough breastmilk for thier babies. But I digress.
Lower income individuals tend to eat food higher in fat content. Many if not most of those women had to formula feed so they could put food on the table. And bytheway cheaper food, stuff that a lower income family can put on the table is higher in everything you are "not supposed" to fill your diet with (white carbohydrates). So taking that into account you will need to find a study that a)only takes women from the same circumstances and have a control for that fact. OTHERWISE IT'S A SKEWED STUDY.

The annoying part of this whole discussion is both forms of feeding are good for the child. end point. The REALLY annoying thing about the LLL that everyone gets annoyed about its that the majority of the women who belong to the organization and stuff like that are not just about letting people know how to do things and stuff they believe in RAMMING it down your throats.

case in point.

6/21/2006 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

In adults who were breastfed--it has not been shown to be a factor in obesity.

Who's breastfeeding adults?

6/21/2006 01:36:00 AM  
Anonymous em said...

I am so sorry I offended so many people. My husband read all the posts and said I sounded very condescending.
He agrees with Heather entirely on causality and research. (He is a scientist).
I really meant only to argue whether or not the research was valid--that is why I purposefully included obesity studies that show disagreement.
The last post was supposed to read "adults who were breastfed when they were children" - an entirely different meaning:)
I personally do not expect that my children are going to be brilliant simply because they were breastfed.
I never care about someone else's personal decision to breast or bottle feed. I know because I came across so rude and condescending about the studies that it sounded that way--but I really believe motherhood is sacred and that every mother knows what is best for her family. I do not think breast or bottle feeding are exclusive to good mothering.
Sorry I tried to cram studies down everyone's throats.
Tracy, I'm really sorry you have had such a horrible experience with breastfeeding moms. (My husband not-so lovingly calls them Milk Nazis or the Milk Mafia).
I read your most recent post about your new baby and breastfeeding a couple of weeks ago. I know a lot of mothers in your situation. They have a website and book to deal with related issues.
Well, I really wanted to end with some witty comment, but it's almost one in the morning and I can't think of one. So, in summary, I'll try to be more civil in the future.

6/21/2006 03:37:00 AM  
Blogger Heather O. said...


No worries, it's all good.

6/21/2006 01:15:00 PM  

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