When our daughter was born, hospital lactation consultants dropped in for some very hands-on training. They were not nurses or doctors, but had plenty of platitudes like “breast is best”.

Our girl was born early, wouldn’t latch properly, and was loosing weight that she couldn’t afford to lose. The pediatrician advised we feed herbreastmilk (hand-expressed or pumped), or give supplemental formula. Anything to keep her fed.

Minutes later, the consultant’s advice ran counter to everything the doctors and nurses had said. “Babies are the best pumps on the market” we heard several times as they discouraged formula, or anything else we were told to try in our sleep-deprived frustration. In the end we were able to keep our baby thriving by giving her a milliliter at a time through a medicine syringe.

But here’s the interesting part: all the studies cited in parenting books admit up front that they “could not control for socioeconomic factors” in their findings. What this means is that affluent mothers tend to breastfeed, and their children also ted to have the best outcomes. Parenting books tout this as evidence that breastfed children receive some benefit real benefit later in life. It has become a pride issue for many modern mothers, and the social pressure is palpable.

Then comes a recent sibling study, in which children in the same family were used as a control – one on formula and one on breastmilk. Surprisingly, all of the differences and apparent advantages disappear. In fact, the only difference is that breastfed children seemed slightly more likely to develop asthma. In reality, the parents the breastfeed also provide a multitude of additional advantages to their children cause the difference.

Author Cynthia Cohen: “We need to take a much more careful look at what happens past that first year of life and understand that breast-feeding 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 breast-feeding does and doesn’t do.”

When my wife called the lactation consultants to ask them how to reduce her milk supply, they recommended peppermint tea. She almost threw the phone.

↓ Transcript
KATE
There's no way I can pump at work, I'll have to switch her to formula soon.
WYLONA
You can't do that, breast is best!
KATE
All these parenting books keep saying that, but none of these studies control for family income. There's just so much socual pressure about it. It's awful.
WYLONA
That's okay, Kaylee. You don't need those extra IQ points.

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