“In certain overachieving circles, breast-feeding is no longer a choice — it’s a no-exceptions requirement, the ultimate badge of responsible parenting. Yet the actual health benefits of breast-feeding are surprisingly thin, far thinner than most popular literature indicates. Is breast-feeding right for every family? Or is it this generation’s vacuum cleaner – an instrument of misery that mostly just keeps women down?” Excerpt from the new article “The Case Against Breast-Feeding” appearing in the April issue of The Atlantic written by Hanna Rosin.
Is breastfeeding the critical, life-enhancing gift you can give to your baby? Many moms, especially moms of now-school-age children, are looking at children around them and starting to wonder. Does breastfeeding actually enhance intelligence? Or are women who have time to breastfeed just of a socio-economic strata that enables them to spend more time enriching their children? Does breastfeeding actually prevent illness? Or are breastfeeding mothers simply the same mothers that are able to keep their children home instead of at germy daycare all day? And what about healthy, thriving, highly intelligent children who were formula fed babies?
Many many mothers chose to breast feed, are happy they did so and enjoyed every minute of it. They are to be commended and it is certain that their children have benefited from the privilege of having loving mothers who have shared nutrition from their bodies. Nobody disputes this. Breastfeeding is good. But is it always best? There are many mothers who suffer as the result of breastfeeding. Adamant proponents of breastfeeding will insist that with proper guidance and coaching breastfeeding can always be a nurturing process for both mother and baby, but there are many mothers who just don’t share that experience. Nobody is saying that breast milk isn’t the most natural first food intended for infants. But what about the exceptions…
We must always remember that a mother’s physical and emotional well-being are probably more important in the nurturing of an infant that the delivery of breast milk and the hard cold fact is that sometimes breastfeeding stands in the way of a woman being the best mother she can be. For example, some babies have food allergies that are transmitted through breast milk. And before you say, “then mom should just change her diet”, talk to one of the many moms who have done so and be assured it isn’t just that easy. In addition to being the exhausted mother of a newborn, one has to practically starve herself isolating and identifying the offending foods to exclude from her diet. Another example are mothers who, despite the careful instruction of a lactation consultant, find it unbearably physically painful to breastfeed. Some mothers experience prolonged post-partum depression for the duration of breastfeeding that makes it difficult to be a nurturing mother in about every way except for the delivery of milk. Some mothers are required to work to support the family and, like it or not, don’t hold jobs that provide the space or the time for them to pump. The list goes on.
The point is, are the actual benefits of breastfeeding so great that they trump all objections to breastfeeding? Hanna Rosin has done her research and concluded that the information (aka Marketing) about the benefits of breastfeeding that has been disseminated over the past 30 to 40 years has been overstated. In this era of skillfully engineered alternative breast milk (“formula”) breast milk is at best slightly healthier for babies, but is certainly not the only good or even best option for all mothers.
Before commenting here, I strongly recommend that you read the full article written by Hanna Rosin in the Atlantic “The Case Against Breastfeeding”. She links to all studies reference in the article so reading the source material is easy and always worth it.