Sunday, May 3, 2009

Breastfeeding Claims Under Attack...Again

In an article published on on April 27, Lauren Cox asserts that claims about the benefits of breastfeeding are overblown. This comes about a month after that Atlantic article in which Hannah Rosen disputed the medical benefits of breastfeeding. I actually responded to the Atlantic article in a previous post.

This interesting timing of these 2 articles undermining the benefits of breastfeeding in such a short period of time makes me wonder what's up. I've thought of several possible reasons
1. Some mothers may feel pressured by the growing pro-lactation movement and are reacting to that perceived pressure in writing.
2. Maybe the artificial human milk industry has done a pretty decent job of convincing the general public that breastmilk and infant formula are about equal.
3. Or perhaps, as I wrote in my previous post, the studies that do indeed show conclusive benefits are titled and the abstracts are written in such a way that artificial milk isn't depicted as a causative factor in multiple negative infant outcomes.

Whatever the reason, it is more important than ever that breastfeeding advocates rely on solid scientific evidence for every claim we make. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement, Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk, contains 216 references to studies, scholarly articles, and public policy documentation dealing with the superiority of breastmilk over artificial milk for infants. While it may not be feasible to read every study in detail, a cursory review of this literature demonstrates overwhelming, objective evidence gathered in reproducible study conditions that repeatedly prove the inferiority of milk substitutes.

It is true that some mothers are unable to breastfeed for one reason or another. And some mothers do struggle with supply issues. A lact-aid with supplement can help. Nevertheless, there is an International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes which strictly prohibits many of the kinds of marketing which the large infant formula companies do in this country. Until the United States government decides to enforce this code, we will continue to see the systematic undermining of breastfeeding in this country. No doubt about it, our work is cut out for us! But we have science and nature on our side, and that's a winning combination!


  1. I agree! I have a big problem with the USA not backing the CODE. I loved your Human Milk in the Nicu post too! Thanks, I'll be back. I write about stories from my years of work but lately wrote a breastfeeding post to respond somewhat to all the current media....

  2. Great post! I think it is interesting that these articles were so close together too. I find it interesting that Rosin specifically glossed over the benefits and did not even use the most current evidence out there--namely the Agency for Healthcare Review and Quality Report ( or the newest AAP 2007 report chock full of references. I blogged about this as well--feel free to check it out:

    I do think that breastfeeding moms face alot of barriers and society (employers especially) can do so much more to support them. As a former breastfeeding and pumping momma who worked full time during, I can attest to the barriers. But throwing the baby out with the bathwater i.e chucking all the benefits because of a personal gripe with breastfeeding is not the most constructive way to deal with it.

    best wishes,