Is breast-feeding actually best?
I read this article in the Independent in June and it made me so cross that I couldn't bear to blog about it. However, following all the international coverage about The Duchess of Cambridge breast-feeding - and having calmed down somewhat(!) - I thought I should share it.
Essentially, the report says that breast-feeding your child improves their chances of becoming a successful adult.
Apparently, a study analysed 34,000 people born in the 1950s and 1970s and claims that breast-fed children are 24% more likely to be upwardly mobile and 20% less likely to drop down the social ladder.
In a nutshell, they claim that the findings show that breast-feeding enhances brain development, which boosts intellect, which in turn increases upward social mobility.
Now my problem is this: I don't think this report is demonstrating an observed phenomenon. Instead, I think it was designed to prove an underlying prejudice about breastfeeding. In my opinion, they've set out to find evidence which is almost impossible to measure in a meaningful way given all the other variables. And thereby reaching a conclusion which is designed to prey on people's worst fears and make women who didn't want to or weren't able to breastfeed feel bad. Essentially, it's a study set up to demonstrate the "breastfeeding: good, formula: evil" hypothesis which, in the UK at least, is a mantra forced down the throat of every pregnant woman or mother from day one.
Why shouldn't women have the right to choose if they breast-feed or not without feeling bad? I once read a piece about an American doctor who had breast-fed her four children. She later went on to study the effects of breast-feeding and her conclusion was that, if you live in a country with clean water, the benefits of breast-feeding are negligible. However, if you live in an under-developed country with poor sanitisation, then breast-feeding is definitely better owing to less risk of infection.
I breast-fed my son for five months and combined-fed my daughter for eight weeks. I gave her formula within five hours of her being born - much to the outrage of the midwives. They even made me fill in a form to sign that I was doing this. It was almost as if I was giving her nicotine!
Do I think that I have scuppered my daughter's chances in life? No, I had a hungry baby and I mothered her by feeding her. I could have waited a few hours for the breast milk to kick in, but I chose to feed her and that's my choice. I have lots of friends who breast-fed one child and not the other because of circumstances. That's their choice too.
By the way, this post isn't intended to be anti-breastfeeding at all. Breast-feeding is fabulous if it works and, if it doesn't, formula is also fine. Both feed and nourish your children well. Breast-feeding your baby doesn't make you a better mum and I wish that the media would stop publishing "studies" and writing stories suggesting it does - or even worse, that not breast-feeding makes you a bad mother. I know that this is a controversial subject and I'd love to hear your views so do read the article and get back to me.