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Breastfeeding Just Might Be Overrated, Study Finds

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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.

More on Yahoo Shine: Breastfeeding Now Mandatory in United Arab Emirates: Does the Law Go Too Far?

"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
Replies (151-153):
by Emerald Member on Feb. 28, 2014 at 9:57 PM
I love boobies

And I breastfed both kids


Quoting stringtheory: You ;)

Quoting sweet-a-kins:


Quoting stringtheory: Why do you hate boobs?


Posted on CafeMom Mobile
by Bronze Member on Feb. 28, 2014 at 10:48 PM

oh, sorry to hear that. at first breastfeeding was very painful, but then it was fine, and I had 2 more, so it was nothing, went along with rocking on the rocking chair. no dishes, always sanitary, etc. i knew other moms that got mastitis, don't envy you. :(  But so many people have been bottlefed.  Even my mom was bottlefed. Most important is that mom does what works for her. 

Quoting Debmomto2girls:

It depends on how well bf'ng goes.  I did both but never, never enjoyed bf'ng. I had mastitis, bleeding, etc.  I did it but never enjoyed it. Bottlefeeding was much easier for me.

Quoting FlowerGirl777:

i can't imagine bothering with sterilizing bottles and buying stuff. Breastfeeding is super easy. That being said, I was formula fed, and I do okay, pretty much. 

by on Mar. 3, 2014 at 8:06 AM
It's sad that women need to judge others for their decisions. My son was 7 weeks early and was bf for a few weeks then went to formula. He's a very healthy 3 year old! My decision which I felt was best should not be judged by others who chose different. Women should keep their harsh opinions to themselves and not judge those women whose choose to ff. Eveyone is entitiled to make the decision that's best and shouldnt be looked at differently because of it. We should support each other not matter bf or ff.
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