The Bad

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006
The Bad
1
Wed, 08-08-2012 - 5:30pm

Interspersed throughout the "Breastfeeding is Worth It" Blog were bits of erroneous information such as:

 

the claims about breastfeeding often rely on poor science

 

I don't [promote] breastfeeding, because I operate under the assumption that mothers (and prospective mothers) are well aware of the benefits and advantages of breastfeeding.

 

I'd much rather [women] formula feed than force themselves into a psychological mind-fark.

 

I don't think we should promote breastfeeding for it's "health benefits" at all. We've all gotten the message

 

I hope that breastfeeding advocates BEGIN extolling the positive, empowering, enjoyable aspects of the act.

 

harping on about the dangers of formula [is] a tactic that doesn't really work,

 

[Breastfeeding has] turned into something we have to do, rather than want to do

 

[The current] world is in no way similar to many of the environments used to back up the "natural", "instinctive" nature of breastfeeding...

 

our ideas about infant feeding are (unconsciously or consciously) stuck in the mire of nostalgic, and ultimately limiting, ideas about women and motherhood.

 

breastfeeding is worth it, BUT so is a mother's sanity, health, and sense of autonomy.

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008
In reply to: nisupulla
Wed, 08-08-2012 - 9:45pm

the claims about breastfeeding often rely on poor science

Not according to trusted scientists who are experts in the field of breastfeeding science. While it's true that a few scientists have argued the a lot of the science is poor/weak and what isn't only shows a slight benefit to breastfeeding (over FF'ing), the majority does not agree with that view. None of those arguing against the idea that breastmilk is significantly superior have presented any sound argument as to why the majority has got it wrong. They rely on arguments that sound logical about how certain confounding factors have been ignored such economic and educational differences explain the so-called health differences between BF and FF babies but present no evidence such factors have actually not considered already. They also claim the way the studies are typically conducted in the area of BF science does allow scientists to contain sufficient proof that BF'ing is significantly better the formula. Those working in the field have addressed that concern by pointing out that while it's true that medical ethics prevent them form conducting BF research in the ideal possible way (i.e. selecting some mothers to BF and some to FF before and monitoring their baby's health over a period of time), research done by examining the health history of babies after the fact does not as claimed produced unreliable data. It may not be as sound as it would be if medical ethics where ignored and you preselected which babies would be FF'd and which would be BF'd, but it still strong enough to draw conclusions from that can be put into practice. Basically, it's generally better for moms to BF as a precautionary measure then to not. Even if  it did turn out the critics where right your not go to be worse then if you FF'd in general over the long term. Some will argue that there are strong negatives that come with BF'ing for many moms and that such moms will be much worse off if they BF and it turns out they didn't really benefit their baby much by it. I believe much of the time the negative can't be worked around such that the mom can still BF though it may in certain case require cooperation from society.

 
I don't [promote] breastfeeding, because I operate under the assumption that mothers (and prospective mothers) are well aware of the benefits and advantages of breastfeeding.

I think this person operates under a false assumption.  I can speak from personal experience and say that that just is not true that every mom knows that breastfeeding is better then formula feeding health-wise. I have seen moms-to-be asking on message boards and Yahoo Answers and such "Is breastfeeding better  then formula for my baby?" or something along those line. Just recently pregnant Snookie (of Jersey Shore fame) was interviewed along with her boyfriend/father-to-be Jionni LaValle, about her upcoming baby and neither seemed to be fully aware of the benefits of breastfeeding. She said she wanted to do it primarily cause she had heard it helps with postpartum weight-loss, a claim that studies have yet to back up. Even if they might know that it's better health-wise, they may not be fully aware of just how much better it is. They may also believe in various myth about BF vs FF that prevent from BF'ing even if they accept it's better health-wise. So promotion of BF'ing is more then just getting the message out that BF is better health-wise/formula is risker health-wise. We want moms to not only try BF, but value it enough to make the effort to stick with and have to knowledge and tools to be able to do so. We also

I'd much rather [women] formula feed than force themselves into a psychological mind-fark.

OK, if there was a case where a women so hated breastfeeding and had such major hangups about it, say do to past sexual abuse or some other psychological issue they couldn't overcome then yes I would agree that not directly breastfeeding would be best. That does not mean though they have to FF. If they can pump and feed EBM via a bottle then I would promote that in such cases. If that was not an option for such a mom for whatever reason then yes I would reluctantly say the for them FF'ing would be best. But in many cases where psychological reasons are brought up as a reason to FF, I don't think they rise to the point where I would agree that bottle feeding is necessary. I think there are far too many cases where women are mislead into believing FF'ing might be best in their psychological state or are simply not aware of the mental health services that could take avantage of to overcome their hang-up regarding BF'ing. In some case the issue is one of lack of support from their DH, own mom, MIL,friends, etc..

I don't think we should promote breastfeeding for it's "health benefits" at all. We've all gotten the message

Like I said above, not everyone has gotten that message. Even those who have may also have gotten incorrect info on other aspects of BF'ing vs FF'ing that may end up canceling out the health message.

I hope that breastfeeding advocates BEGIN extolling the positive, empowering, enjoyable aspects of the act.

I know many BF advocates, myself included that already do that. But I do feel their is value in talking about the risks of formula too. Just speaking about the positive aspects of breastfeeding can make it seem like it's a great bonus health-wise but not the important if it does not work out for you. I also believe that being honest about the downsides of breastfeeding along with advice on how to overcome the downsides if valuable. It's about balance though. you don't want to paint BF'ing as horrible unpleasant painful act that you must endure for the health of your baby nor due you want to paint it as wonderful mind blowing, you'll love 100% from the first latch-on to the last without ever having any problems what-so-ever kind of experience.

harping on about the dangers of formula [is] a tactic that doesn't really work,

Actually, I would disagree though it really depends on how you portray the risks. You don't want to come across as implying the every FF'd baby will be serious ill all the time or that many will die (in Western countries) but you also want to convey the reality that it is indeed risky enough to warrant making a serious effort to BF.

[Breastfeeding has] turned into something we have to do, rather than want to do

 I would like to see mothers who BF because it's best for the babies health even if it's not the most enjoyable thing or something ideally they want to do. I don't believe it's has to be something moms find 100% enjoyable for them to do it. We do things all the time we don't necessarily enjoy but know it's in our best interest. For example, i recently went to the dentist to have my teeth cleaned, a experience I could do without in an ideal world, but which I did anyways because it's better then the possible consequences of not doing so.Now all this does not mean I do care if mothers enjoy BF'ing or not as I would love for them to enjoy it or at least view it as not something they completely hate, if possible. But ultimately, we are not advocating BF'ing because we feel it's simply an enjoyable act that every mom should enjoy but rather because it's healthier overall for the baby. There mere fact that something is viewed as something we have to do rather then something we want to do does not make it wrong. We all can probably come up with a list of things we all agree most people should be expected to do whether they want to or not even if we may not all agree with what that list might entail. For example, I'm sure everyone here would agree that providing basics needs of your child should be a requirement not simply something you can do if you want to. No one here would agree with any of us allowing our babies to go with soiled diapers for days or weeks on end simply because we hate changing diapers. Now that does not mean I'm arguing that we force mothers by law to BF whether they want to or not but I don't seeing creating a society where moms feel like they should BF anyways even if they don't want to is a bad thing, so long as there isn't a reason they can't or should BF. I know moms who BF'd despite never enjoying it or wanting to and in the end they felt they did the right thing for their child. They agreed the benefits to their child outweighed the negatives to them in doing something they never enjoyed or wanted to do. 

[The current] world is in no way similar to many of the environments used to back up the "natural", "instinctive" nature of breastfeeding...

If I understand the point being made here, I agree that things are different for the modern mom in a Western country when it comes to the environment they are raising their children in and thus society plays a big role in how we view BF'ing such that many do not feel the same instinctual desire to BF early women felt prior to FF'ing becoming popular. But on a very logical level breastfeeding is natural and formula feeding is not. Formula is processed cows milk with various ingredients added to try and simulate breastmilk as close as possible (which is not very close currently). Breast-milk for the most part if natural. Now it's true that not everyone finds it natural or instinctual to do which is a different matter altogether.

our ideas about infant feeding are (unconsciously or consciously) stuck in the mire of nostalgic, and ultimately limiting, ideas about women and motherhood.

I not sure exactly what she (or he) means by this but I take a guess. Yes, we BF advocates may long for the day when BF'ing was the default way to feed babies and alternatives where not considered accept for babies who had no access to BM for whatever reason. I don;t see that as a wrong thing to want as getting to a point where most mothers only consider FF'ing is their is a true need would be a good thing in terms of the overall health of babies. But it's not just BF advocates who have nostalgia for the past. I believe there are many FF'rs who also long for the day when FF'ing was seen as the better way to feed a baby and the default and BF advocacy just didn't exist. The real issue though is that there is clear evidence that BF'ing is significantly healthier then FF'ing. It's not about nostalgia or whatever. So it's not simply nostalgia that drives us but a true concern over the health of children.

breastfeeding is worth it, BUT so is a mother's sanity, health, and sense of autonomy.

She (or he) implies that the the breastfeeding is too often incompatible with sanity, health, and sense of autonomy when I would disagree with that. Sure, in a minority of cases this may be the case but in others the real issue is lack of support. Sanity and health are too often not a real reason the mom has to quit BF'ing. It's lack of support that more often is the real issue. Too often are BF'ing moms wrongly informed that breastfeeding must stop in order to deal with some medical or psychological issue such PPD. Too often are moms worngly told that x medication is incompatible with BF'ing when in fact is is not. Too often are moms told that continuing to try and BF will worsen their PPD when the real issue is lack of good support and advice to help them overcome their BF issues which will make them feel better overall. 

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