There is a new “medical” study that is out on how the results of breastfeeding have been exaggerated. The study claims that long-term effects of breastfeeding have been inflated compared to bottle-feeding infants. Did your jaw just hit the floor like mine did? I’m surprised that something like this would surface when we live in a age when breastfeeding mothers are finding minimal support as it is.
“Breastfeeding Results Are Exaggerated” – The New Study
This study was done by David Ramey and Cynthia Colen, two SOCIOLOGISTS who set out on a mission to evaluate 655 families in the United States. They chose to study families where one child was breastfed and the other was bottle-fed.
This new study says that research that claims that breastfeeding boosts children’s IQ and protects from a vast range of health conditions later in life is flawed. Cythia and David claim that these outcomes include BMI/obesity, asthma, hyperactivity, attachment, compliance, academic achievement and competence. The study further states that typical estimates of the impact of breastfeeding on child wellbeing may be overstated.
It further went on to state that children who were breast-fed were at higher risk for asthma.
I’m a little taken back by this very controversial opinion/study which contradicts an overwhelming amount of evidence and research that we have all heard and learned about. I’m seeing articles coming out saying, “Hold the Guilt“…as if this new study is a way for formula feeding mothers to rest easy and feel less guilty.
I understand that we all cannot breastfeed for difference circumstances. I wasn’t able to breastfeed my son because of a traumatic event that affected my milk supply. However, I would never underestimate breastfeeding so that I could feel less guilty or more approval to formula feed. This has nothing to do with me. This has everything to do with our babies and children deserving the nourishment that was intended for them.
The area of asthma is one to talk more in depth about. I would be very interested to know if diet and lifestyle were taken into any account when conducting this study.
13 Studies Proving Breastfeeding Results ARE NOT Exaggerated:
1. Breastfeeding should be exclusive for 6 months and then continued for AT LEAST a year.
“The AAP reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.” (1)
2. Breastfeeding Improves the Gut and Prevents Against Illness…Including Otitis Media (Ear Infection)
The direct benefits of breastfeeding include improvement in gastrointestinal function and host defense, and prevention of acute illnesses (eg, acute otitis media) during the time of breastfeeding. (2).
As an example, the incidence of two or more episodes of otitis media was reduced in infants breast-fed for one year compared with infants fed formula (34 versus 54 percent). (14)
3. Anti-inflammatory Agents in Human Milk May Reduce NEC (necrotizing enterocolitis) and Other Infections:
Anti-inflammatory agents (eg, interleukin 10) may reduce the risk of NEC. Interleukin-10 is an anti-inflammatory cytokine that decreases inflammation and injury to the gastrointestinal tract (3) . In addition, polyunsaturated fatty acids modulate inflammatory reactions and may protect the gastrointestinal tract from NEC (4).
4. Human Milk Has Anti-Microbial Properties:
Specific Proteins are found in human milk. These proteins are generally resistant to proteolytic degeneration, line the mucosal surfaces and prevent microbial attachment. They further inhibit microbial activity (5, 6, 7).
5. In Developing Countries, Mortality is Lower in Breast-fed Infants Verses Formula-Fed.
6. In Developed Countries, Hospitalization and Outpatient Visits is Lower Among Breast-Fed Infants in the First Year
The attack rate of acute illness is lower among breast-fed infants compared to formula fed infants (10).
7. Respiratory Illnesses are Less Frequent in Breast-Fed Infants Compared with Formula-Fed Infants
In one study, breast-fed compared with formula-fed infants had a lower incidence of respiratory illness during the first 13 weeks of life (25.6 versus 37 percent). (11)
8. Breast-Fed Infants Have Less Urinary Tract Infections:
In one study done, infants who were hospitalized for urinary tract infections were less likely to have been breast-fed. This protection is suggested based on the fact that breast-fed infants have greater content of anti-microbial components in their urine. (15)
9. Post-Breastfeeding Protection Appears to Increase the Duration of Breastfeeding
The longer you breastfeed, the better protected the infant is. This was illustrated in a study done with children between 6 and 24 months of age. Infants who were exclusively breastfed for four to six months compared with those who exclusively breastfed for MORE THAN 6 months were more likely to develop pneumonia, have more ear infections during the 12-month period preceding the study. (16)
10. There May Be a Relationship Between Breastfeeding and the Prevention of Chronic Disease
- Obesity – There may be a relationship between breastfeeding and the prevention of obesity. Several studies have been done on various ethnic children and the results are the same. Prolonged breastfeeding was associated with a reduced risk of being obese. (17, 18, 19)
- Cancer – Breastfeeding has been associated with an overall reduced risk in childhood cancer as well as lymphoma and leukemia. (20, 21, 22)
- Type 1 Diabetes – Breastfed infants appear to have a decreased risk of developing type 1 diabetes mellitus compared to formula-fed infants. The difference is thought to be due to a cell-mediated response to a specific cow’s milk protein, beta-casein, which may be involved in the development of type 1 diabetes. (23)
11. Cognitive Development is Improved Later in Life with Breastfed Infants
There have been several reports that breastfeeding slightly improves cognitive development later in childhood and adolescence. (24)
One particular study done on ten-year-old children discovered that those who were predominately breastfed for 6 months or longer in infancy had higher academic scores than children who were breastfed for less than 6 months. (25)
12. Breastfed Infants Have Improved Visual Function Compared to Formula-Fed Infants
This is said to be benefited to the DHA which is present in human milk (26) . DHA plays a major role in brain and visual development.
13. Breastfed Infants are Less Stressed
There is an analgesic effect of breastfeeding, which is, most likely, due to the maternal-infant bonding that happens when nursing an infant (27). Breastfed infants experience less stress than formula fed infants. This could also be due to the higher cortisol levels of breastfeeding compared to formula-fed infants (28).
The benefits of breastfeeding are astounding and nothing to undermine. Reading these studies should not make anyone feel guilty or less of a mother because you are not able to breastfeed. Everyone should be aware of the incredible benefits of human milk.
Breastfeeding for all infants is strongly supported by the right professional organizations. If you cannot find the support you need, reach out to La Leche League or call a hospital to talk to a lactation consultant. Many times a decrease in milk supply is because of improper latch which can be easily corrected.
Books to Help the Nursing Mother:
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding with Confidence
- Breastfeeding Made Simple
- Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding
- The Nursing Mother’s Companion
- (1) American Academy of Pediatrics
- (2) Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries
- (3) The National Center for Biotechnology Information
- (4) The National Center for Biotechnology Information
- (5) Biochemistry and Physiological Function of Human Milk Proteins
- (6) Protective Factors in Milk
- (7) Immunologic Protection of the Premature Newborn by Human Milk
- (8) The Protective Effect of Human Milk Against Diarrhea
- (9) Breast-feeding and Diarrheal Morbidity
- (10) Prolonged and Exclusive Breastfeeding Reduces the Risk of Infectious Diseases in Infancy
- (11) Protective Effect of Breastfeeding Against Infection
- (12) Review of the Epidemiologic Evidence for an Association Between Infant Feeding and Infant health
- (13) Breastfeeding and Lower Respiratory Tract Illness in the First Year of Life
- (14) Differences in Morbidity Between Breast-Fed and Formula-Fed Infants
- (15) Human Milk Feeding Enhances the Urinary Excretion of Immunologic Factors
- (16) Full Breastfeeding Duration and Associated Decrease in Respiratory Tract Infection in US Children
- (17) Does Breastfeeding Protect Against Pediatric Overweight?
- (18) Evidence Report on Breastfeeding in Developed Countries
- (19) Breastfeeding and Obesity Among Schoolchildren
- (20) Breastfeeding and the Risk of Childhood Leukemia
- (21) Breastfeeding and Childhood Cancer
- (22) Infant Feeding and Childhood Cancer
- (23) Diet, Cow’s Milk Protein Antibodies and the Risk of IDDM in Finnish Children
- (24) The Association Between Duration of Breastfeeding and Adult Intelligence
- (25) Breastfeeding Duration and Academic Achievement at 10 years
- (26) DHA is the Preferred Dietary n-3 Fatty Acid for Development of the Brain and Retina
- (27) Analgesic Effect of Breastfeeding in Term Neonates
- (28) Are Breastfed Infants More Resilient? Feeding Method and Cortisol in Infants