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No Breastfeeding; No Guilt

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

I was raised in an era when children were fed Karo Syrup and evaporated milk, and nobody gave my mother a guilt-trip for doing so.  As with many low-income families, she spent much of her time working to provide for our family and would not have been able to stay home to breastfeed.  Somehow though, we all grew up to be healthy, happy adults.  In fact, two of my sisters are doctors and the other is a lawyer and Ph. D., so I’d say we turned out pretty well.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) though, would like moms to believe otherwise.

When an organization like the AAP recommends breastfeeding, new moms are likely to trust in their expertise and follow suit, assuming the organization has conducted years of research and found conclusive results in favor of breastfeeding.  Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.  That hasn’t stopped them from publishing an executive summary of their recommendations though.

In their most recent Executive Summary on Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk, the AAP cited, “a variety of government data sets, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Immunization Survey, the NHANES, and Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care.”  These studies merely show how many people are breastfeeding in developed countries, not whether or not this has been beneficial for the children involved.

In fact, there has so far only been one scientific study performed and this is where all of their data is coming from.  Also, the study itself admits that, “Because almost all the data in this review were gathered from observational studies, one should not infer causality based on these findings.”  In other words, they gathered their information from other reports and performed a scientific analysis, but did not do any controlled experiments themselves, so they can’t be certain that the relationship between the health of children and the rate of breastfeeding are actually related.  Even more shocking is the AAP’s blatant disregard for some of the findings in the study.  The AAP Summary reports that, “Adjusted outcomes for intelligence scores and teacher’s ratings are significantly greater in breastfed infants.”  While the study they are citing actually says, “There was no relationship between breastfeeding in term infants and cognitive performance.”  Human breast milk is deficient in iron and Vitamin D; yet, those deficiencies are rarely mentioned when it comes to comparing breastfeeding and formula feeding.  Moreover, the touted immunity conferred to the newborn from breastfeeding has not resulted in better outcomes for breastfed infants.

So why are they so adamant about it?  It turns out; they have spent the past several years urging the Senate to carry out a $15 million campaign to promote breastfeeding at maternity care practices, community-based organizations, and hospitals.  In other words, wherever mothers might be giving birth or receiving pediatric care, their physicians are flooded with propaganda pushing the importance of breastfeeding.  This has led to a lot of pressure on moms who have chosen not to breastfeed, and consequently, a lot of unnecessary guilt.  Mothers have the right to choose the method they feel most comfortable with, and shouldn’t have to feel guilty for that choice.

— Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.