To reinforce that “breast is best” for babies and formula feeding is inferior, in 2022 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asserted her decades-long position in favor of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF), meaning nothing but breastmilk, advocating for it in the first six months and calling breastfeeding and breastmilk a “normative” and “public health imperative”. The policy stated that “medical contraindications” – reasons for not breastfeeding – “are rare”; the only “real” ones, according to the organization, are infants with galactosemia (a metabolic disorder) or HIV-positive parents.
Looking back on my own experience, I am convinced that the pressure of breastfeeding contributed to my development. postpartum anxiety And Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I later learned that this pressure could harm mental health even more acutely, including potentially increasing the risk of suicide. I struggled but was determined to exclusively breastfeed because I believed it would reduce my child’s risk of contracting several illnesses and boost lifelong success. I was wrong, largely because I was misled. As a reproductive rights activist and journalist who has covered children and food issues since 2014, I agree with the growing opposition to the decree this exclusivity breastfeeding is imperative. Barriers to breastfeeding are real and disproportionately affect marginalized people, many of whom return to work soon after giving birth. The fight for the right to breastfeed is rightly raging, and I consider myself a strong supporter. At the same time, adoptive parents and other relatives who cannot provide breastmilk or choose not to feel ashamed. No matter how cherished our right to breastfeed is, so is our right to feed our babies with or without our bodies.
Because we’re told science shows that “medical contraindications” to exclusive breastfeeding are rare, millions of parents wonder what’s wrong with us when it doesn’t work. Although breastfeeding proponents suggest that the true physiological problems that contribute to low milk supply are “rare,” this science is hardly conclusive. Some studies show that everything from breast surgery to polycystic ovary syndrome, diabetes, chronic stress and more can disrupt lactation and together these conditions affect far more than 1 in 10 people. who gives birth. Christie Del Castillo-Hegyi, an emergency physician, mother of three, and co-founder of the nonprofit Fed is Best Foundation (FIBF), says the push for universal EBF makes it “difficult to understand the nuances, the exaggerations and risks of such a recommendation. The mission of the FIBF is to defend families who have encountered complications while trying to join the EBF. The use of breast-feeding can also lead to a violation of children’s right to be satiated.
Proponents often say that breastfeeding is “free”, but it’s not. There is the cost of our time, effort, pumping equipment and discontinuation of proceedings. These costs and benefits vary from person to person. I didn’t realize that EBF would take so much away from me. As I recovered from a traumatic birth, my baby cried unless she was on my breast, which many EBF advocates say is normal, so I breastfed constantly. When we left the hospital, she had lost 9% of her birth weight, which was within 7-10% of what is considered normal in an EBF newborn in many maternities. I was told to continue breastfeeding “on demand” at home. On the fourth day of her life, I was devastated to learn that she had lost over 12% of her weight. Our doctor recommended supplementing with formula, assuring us that everything would be fine and that I could wean off formula in a few days. I felt anything but good.
Luckily, my newborn didn’t have to be readmitted to the hospital, or worse. It’s crucial to know the signs that a newborn isn’t getting enough milk, including crying all the time when not at the breast. Extreme dehydration can have serious immediate and long-term consequences. Rarely, it can be fatal. EBF advocates suggest that colostrumor drops of the clear substance excreted before abundant milk production, is enough to feed a newborn in the first days of life. But that’s not always enough. EBF is not Mother Nature’s design. The caregivers have infants fed with substances in addition to or instead of milk from their own biological parents and in many cultures for a host of reasons, including the supply of milk taking a few days to ‘arrive’ and personal preference. These alternatives included human nursing milk and animal milk.
Formula bottles saved my baby and me. This weekend, after frequent breastfeeding sessions, my partner supplemented our voracious newborn with formula while I spent another 20 minutes with an electric pump to further stimulate milk production. The three-day, 24-hour ordeal produced the desired effect. Soon I was producing enough milk and we gave up formula. It didn’t occur to me that I had a choice to skip the conflict and use the formula from the start instead of avoiding it, using it with a sense of shame, then working hard to stop using it.
“The amount of emotional cargo that is attached ‘to EBF’ is grossly disproportionate to the benefits,” says Daniel Summers, a pediatrician and father of four who supports patient choice to use formula. The historic and current predatory practices of the formula industry do not mean that formula is inherently bad or that breast milk is “the best”.
None of this is to say it’s a lie that breastfed infants fare better than their formula-fed peers at the population level. On the contrary, it is not breast milk that confers better results. The essence of infant feeding data are observational and have confounding factors. In wealthier countries, people who breastfeed tend to be more secure financially, live near fewer dangers and have stable co-parenting relationships. Sibling studies account for these confounders because siblings are exposed to similar environments. In 2014, US researchers have examined thousands of siblings born since the 1980s. Breastfed babies from different families had a lower incidence of asthma, hyperactivity, etc. they also showed better reading and math comprehension than formula-fed babies. When they compared breastfed babies with siblings who received formula, almost all these differences have become insignificant.
The main thing is, safe breast milkinfant formula properly prepared with potable water, or a combination of both are good choices for term infants. Privilege and better results go hand in hand. For meaningful interventions that lead to positive outcomes, Summers would like to see support around the “real logistical needs” of disadvantaged families. Important Note: Breast milk has been shown to protect premature newborns life-threatening intestinal infection that can cause holes in the intestinal walls. For full-term infants, even though breastmilk contains remarkable substances, there is no evidence that this is the mechanism behind superior short- and long-term outcomes.
It is easier to force parents to exclusively breastfeed than to solve systemic problems that affect children’s well-being. All humans have the right to consider the pros and cons of using their bodies to feed their newborns and to make their own informed choices, including choosing to use formula, whether the reason is against it. -medical indication or that they do not want it.
This is an opinion and analytical article, and the opinions expressed by the author or authors are not necessarily those of American scientist.