Philosophy with Attitude

July 11, 2003: The August 2003 issue of "Real Simple" included an article titled "20 rules to break now," about the potential "worst thing" that could happen if you broke the unstated rule. Relevant text of the article:

What's the worst thing that could happen if you...Don't breast-feed your child?

Most Likely: 'In the long run, nothing,' says Boris Petrikovsky, chairman of the department of obstetrics-gynecology at Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, New York. When you're bottle-feeding, you know exactly how much food the baby is eating, and Mom may be less tired because Dad has no excuse to sleep through 3 a.m. feedings. 'There is also absolutely no conclusive data on breast milk's effects on brain development,' adds Petrikovsky.

Worst Case: 'The biggest downside of not breast-feeding is that the mother misses out on some of the bonding," says Petrikovsky. And since breast milk is specially designed to meet the nutritional needs of infants and contains antibodies that help protect them from a variety of illnesses, 'babies who are breast-fed are more likely to have a stronger immune system and be sick less than formula-fed infants.'

Hogwash, of course, so here's my reply:

Dear folks,

As a potential subscriber, I have to say, the "20 rules to break now" article in the August issue has just made me a forever non-subscriber.  The Ob-Gyn who is quoted in the article is way, way off.  The worst things that could happen to a baby who is not breastfed are myriad and serious -- not every baby will have an adverse reaction, but try talking to parents whose babies could not tolerate any of the formulas currently on the market and ask them if it was simpler not to breastfeed!  It's not just a matter of missing out on bonding.  They miss out on all the immune benefits of breastmilk.  They are more likely to have digestive disturbances as infants, ranging from constipation, to milk protein allergies, to diarrhea.  Babies who are not fed breastmilk are more likely to suffer from diabetes, obesity, Crohn's disease, and a number of other conditions later in life. All of this is very well documented in medical literature... which your "expert" has apparently not read.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends nursing for at least a year... but since your "expert" is not, in fact, an expert on babies, I suppose we shouldn't expect him to realize this. 

Bottle-feeding takes up far more time than breastfeeding -- when I was breastfeeding my son, if he got hungry, all I had to do was put him to my breast.  Period.  There was no preparation of formula, worrying about sterilizing or cleaning bottles, wondering if I'd brought enough formula with me on an errand, worrying about the staggering costs of formula feeding... and I could rest assured knowing I was providing the most appropriate and safest possible food for my child.  I knew he was eating enough because he had enough wet and dirty diapers.  My husband could still feed him when I went out, using pumped and frozen breastmilk... which I pumped while my son was nursing, so no extra time spent there.  Middle of the night feedings were not an issue; my son (simply) slept beside me, and when he wanted to eat, I'd latch him on and go back to sleep.  No having to reheat formula or keep a cooler beside the bed.  No getting Dad up, and no lost sleep for me.

I sincerely hope you will print just a few of the letters you will undoubtedly receive on this topic from other parents who are as appalled as I am at this terrible "advice".  And I hope you will consider printing an opposing viewpoint... like the viewpoint of the entire children's medical field!

Jan Andrea

happy to have breastfed her son, and looking forward to breastfeeding her daughter -- because it's simple, and because it's the best.

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