Friday, July 24, 2009

So why is there a "breast is best" controversy?

Several years ago, the US government spent over $2 million on a breastfeeding campaign, yet the US has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in all industrialized countries.

There is talk of pressure put on mothers to breastfeed. Proponents say this "pressure" is just information about the evidence.

In a 2006 interview for ABC news, Dr. Myron Peterson of the Cato Institute, a private research foundation, disagrees. "It's basically negative advertising and it's designed to frighten people," he said. "One of the worst things you can do is to force or coerce or cause a woman to breast-feed when she really doesn't want to because that's a recipe for disaster."

Conversely, in today's US hospital there is an undercurrent of what some call sabotage on the part of nurses toward breastfeeding mothers. Regardless of policy and practice standards, nurses are still giving exclusively breastfeeding babies water, glucose water, pacifiers or formula. Could this not be construed as a recipe for disaster also?

Here are some well-known and not-so-well known facts about breastfeeding:

1) Breastfeeding is cheaper by 1/3. Ref: San Diego Breastfeeding Coalition.

2) Breastmilk contains the perfect nutrition for the age of the child as he/she grows plus antibodies to protect from illness and diseases. Ref: World Health Organization.

3) It is not the mothers who consciously decide to use formula that feel guilty or are unhappy about it. It's the ones who tried to breastfeed, but didn't have the support they needed to keep going. First these mothers feel guilty, then they may get angry. They were denied their right to make an informed decision and have that decision respected. Ref: Bright Future Lactation Resource Centre Ltd.

4) Obstetrical practices sabotage breastfeeding and bonding opportunities. Ref: Dr. Marsden Wagner

5) Breastfeeding mothers have a lower instances of certain breast and ovarian cancers. Ref: US Department of Health & Human Services

6) Breastfed babies have less chance of SIDS. Ref: US Department of Health & Human Services

7) Breastfeeding has NUMEROUS benefits for babies...and mothers. Ref: American Academy of Pediatrics.

8) A to Z: 26 Benefits of breastfeeding Ref: La Leche League International

9) Breastfeeding rates in 1999-2006 were significantly higher among those with higher income (74%) compared with those who had lower income (57%). Breastfeeding rates among mothers 30 years and older were significantly higher than those of younger mothers. Ref: CDC/NCHS Data Brief

10) The impact of medical interventions during the birth of a baby significantly impacts initial bonding, and breastfeeding. Ref: Impact of Birth Practices on Breastfeeding (available 10/1/2009)

As a maternity researcher for over 30 years, I find the evidence irrefutable. The key is to do as well with marketing the hard evidence as the formula/pharmaceutical companies did marketing their products.


mrsculpepper said...

so the answer is positive advertising? when i took my clc class we were told that its not our job to convince women to breastfeed but to help those who have already decided or to give information for those who had not decided one way or another.

i know the ads they did recently were a big flop. i don't know exactly how the ads were evaluated but i know they didn't have the desired effect on breastfeeding rates.

i so often see breastfeeding promoted in the context of risk reduction, and occaisionally health enhancement but i rearely see it touted for its convinience, or for the unmatched experience it offers. you can compare health assesments all day but theres no way to compare the way breastfeeding feels for the mother child dyad.

also its so often touted as all or nothing but it doesn't have to be. if we could just work on initiation rates so that that increases at least to the healthy people 2010 75% target, them work on duration and THEN worry about exclusivity.

combo feeding is probably more work but if it allows a mother/baby to partake in partial breastfeeding vs no breastfeeding then its a strategy not to be overlooked.

TopHat said...

A blogger I read just did a post on breastfeeding advertising last week and I thought it was pretty insightful.