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Breastfeeding Just Might Be Overrated, Study Finds

Posted by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 4:19 PM
  • 153 Replies

 

Breastfeeding Just Might Be Overrated, Study Finds

Bottle feeding: is it really so bad? Photo: Paul Bradbury/Getty ImagesThough breastfeeding has been declared the gold standard by everyone from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the World Health Organization, a new study has suggested that its benefits might actually not be all that. The research, out of Ohio State University, found that when siblings raised in the same family were fed differently-one breastfed, the other not-the long-term health results were virtually the same.

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"I do think a lot of the effects of breastfeeding have been overstated," lead researcher Cynthia Colen, assistant professor of sociology, tells Yahoo Shine. Because it's been well-established, including by the Centers for Disease Control, that the rate of breastfeeding differs substantially by demographic-with non-white, poorer women among the least likely to nurse-Colen was curious about how other factors played into negative health benefits usually blamed on formula feeding. "African-American women breastfeed children much less than white women do, for example, and I thought, this has to be affecting the findings," she explains. "But I didn't expect the research to be this striking."

What she found, when analyzing data on 8,237 children (from a national cohort following children between 1986 and 2010), was that the 1,773 sibling pairs raised in the same family but fed differently as infants had virtually no differences, between ages 4 and 14, in outcomes including BMI, obesity, hyperactivity, parental attachment, and test scores predicting academic achievement in vocabulary, reading, math, and general intelligence. The one difference was with asthma; those who breastfeed were more apt to develop the disease (a link that has been found before, in children whose parents have asthma).

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Another portion of the research looked at differences between children not in the same families-with those who were breastfed, as usual, having healthier outcomes. "We included that to show there was nothing funky about the study," Colen notes, adding that the differences between families could possibly be based on a variety of factors beyond breastfeeding, from socioeconomic status and eating habits later in life to the level of pollution in their respective neighborhoods. Those factors are not usually considered in major breastfeeding studies, she says.

"We know poorer kids have higher rates of obesity because their diets are worse," she explains. "They are more likely to eat processed food; they are more likely to eat fast food; they are more likely to live in ‘food deserts' [neighborhoods without good grocery options] and in places where they can't get out and exercise as much."

Other recent studies, meanwhile, have found positive links between breastfeeding and various outcomes in children. In 2013, researchers found that breastfeeding made for more intelligent children; a similar 2010 study found that 10-year-olds who were breastfed scored better than formula-fed classmates on tests in math, reading and writing. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, followed by nursing plus foods until at least 12 months, and then continued breastfeeding for as long as mom and baby want. "Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis," its website notes. "As such, choosing to breastfeed should be considered an investment in the short- and long-term health of the infant, rather than a lifestyle choice."

Still, Colen's research suggests that kids' health, in the long term, may have much less to do with nursing than previously thought.

"I wanted to address the discourse out there of what women were expected to do," she tells Shine about the ongoing and often heated "breast is best" discussion. She adds, in a press release about the study, "We need to take a much more careful look at what happens past that first year of life and understand that breastfeeding might be very difficult, even untenable, for certain groups of women. Rather than placing the blame at their feet, let's be more realistic about what breastfeeding does and doesn't do."

by on Feb. 26, 2014 at 4:19 PM
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Replies (1-10):
Mom2Just1
by Gold Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:08 PM
14 moms liked this

Milk perfectly made for my babies vs. milk made in a science lab...I will take breast milk anyday.  It is also free.  Why would I pay for a product that is subpar?

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canadianmom1974
by Gold Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:18 PM
6 moms liked this
I think, jmo, that breast milk is best, and I would encourage all moms to try bf'ing, but I don't think formula feeding is bad at all.
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lga1965
by Ruby Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:19 PM
12 moms liked this

This is good. I breast fed one kid and bottle fed two. All three are healthy, happy, very intelligent and have no serious diseases. My first baby who had been bottle fed has asthma,though.
The thing is that too many moms are made to feel like failures if they can't or choose not to breast feed. That's not fair. Maybe this study will take the pressure off Moms and let them enjoy their babies.and motherhood.

ParanormalSarah
by Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:23 PM
1 mom liked this

Poop


sheramom4
by Bronze Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:24 PM
8 moms liked this

I think that "breast is best" can be taken too far. According to some, breast milk cures everything. Kids has strep throat (which is dangerous when untreated) give the breast milk...they will get better! Kid fell and needs stitches?  Throw some breast milk on it lol. It's like Windex in my Big Fat Greek Wedding. It's benefits are overstated in an  attempt to shame and bully women into breast feeding, which the leads to less women breast feeding and increases in women feeling inferior as mothers if they run into barriers. And I am stating this as a woman who nursed four children. 


EireLass
by Ruby Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:25 PM
1 mom liked this
I breastfed both, but I always thought formula got an extremely bad rap.
Woodbabe
by Woodie on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:27 PM
5 moms liked this

Good. One of my was significantly breast fed longer and more substantially than the other but both of them are equally healthy, smart and successful. Formula isn't the POISON many make it out to be. I will always support breast feeding but I won't come down on anyone that doesn't, for whatever reason.

AbelsMommy01
by Member on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:27 PM
2 moms liked this
This is exactly right, and this bullying is most common here on the Internet.


Quoting sheramom4:

I think that "breast is best" can be taken too far. According to some, breast milk cures everything. Kids has strep throat (which is dangerous when untreated) give the breast milk...they will get better! Kid fell and needs stitches?  Throw some breast milk on it lol. It's like Windex in my Big Fat Greek Wedding. It's benefits are overstated in an  attempt to shame and bully women into breast feeding, which the leads to less women breast feeding and increases in women feeling inferior as mothers if they run into barriers. And I am stating this as a woman who nursed four children. 

GLWerth
by Gina on Feb. 26, 2014 at 5:34 PM
3 moms liked this

Each woman needs to decide how to feed her child.

I personally believe breastfeeding is best and I'd encourage every mom to give it a shot. If it doesn't work for you for whatever reason, there is no shame in bottle feeding, but I'll never regret my time spent nursing my babies.

Goodwoman614
by Satan on Feb. 26, 2014 at 8:04 PM
4 moms liked this

All things being equal, bf for me was SO much more convenient, cost free (still can't believe how expensive formula is - and one of the most stolen grocery items), and the biggest reason of all: intimacy and bond between mom & baby.

Finally, there are health benefits to moms to consider.


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