Friday, January 14, 2011

I do not buy it: new UK study challenges benefits of breastfeeding

In a new study out of Britain, researchers are claiming that breastfeeding for the first 6 months is not necessarily best. They claim that exclusive breastfeeding can result in iron deficiencies and an increase in allergies. This is in contrast to the World Health Organization's long-standing recommendation for mothers to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months--which is based on 16 studies, many of which are from developing countries.

I don't have a lot of photos from my many months of breastfeeding...but this is one!
What's most harmful about this new misleading recommendation--besides the fact that it's a boon for formula companies--is that people in developing countries could be even less likely to continue breastfeeding. Iron drops to prevent anemia are a helluva lot cheaper than formula (and they don't require clean water for mixing)!

I see a hard and clear link between the fact that Chris received breast milk (mostly by bottle because of his reflux) for the first 15 months of his life...and as soon as he stopped (because my breast pump stopped working in England), he was admitted to the hospital with RSV. I am convinced that my breast milk contributed to the health of all three of my children, but especially Chris.

In my experience visiting the UK, people are less supportive of breastfeeding in general than Americans are. I nursed in public all the time when we visited, although as the boys got older I felt less comfortable about it...like people were judging me for what I was doing. I remember when my breast pump broke and I had to go cold turkey...I went to the "chemist's" to ask about medication to help my milk dry up (so it wouldn't be so painful). They were completely unhelpful and told me to just take paracetemol (i.e., ibuprofen), which just didn't cut it.

Beyond the many medical benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, one cannot deny the bonds forged between mother and child and the great emotional benefits for both. Breastfeeding (or bottle feeding, if done in a tender, loving, child-focused way and not propping up the bottle with the baby) promotes deep, lasting attachment.

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