I’ve gotten a lot of questions and comments lately about the article that states Breastfeeding benefits have been drastically overstated. As always, it is important to examine the scientific evidence in making a decision for health reasons (I could also tell you many social and economic advantages to breastfeeding, but let’s just stay with the matter at hand).
My basic answer is that the sibling study used to create the article Breastfeeding benefits have been drastically overstated is that the study is inherently flawed and the media hype is what is overstated. Breastfeeding remains the healthiest and safest way to provide infant nutrition. This statement is supported both by the preponderance of scientific evidence collected over a long period of time as well as the more ultimate evidence provided by evolution (nature).
Here is a statement by Mike Brady of Baby Milk Action that sums up the rebuttal:
“There are many curious aspects to this research and the way it is being reported. The research looked at a set of historic data and found that overall breastfed children did significantly better than formula-fed children, but that is not the headline appearing around the world.
“The researchers highlight that in a subgroup no benefits were found from breastfeeding, but look closely: they compared a child who may have only been breastfed once with a sibling who had no breastmilk at all and looked at things like their maths ability and vocabulary years later. Finding little difference between these children, they concluded that factors such as their parents’ education have a bigger impact than how the children were fed. No kidding! Years of robust research on health outcomes is being cast aside for this?
“They also draw conclusions about breastfed children having higher asthma rates, contrary to other research, but to do so they have to turn their previous logic on its head. The NHS review of this research points out that in the subgroup of brothers and sisters fed differently there was actually no difference between reported asthma outcomes. From this you could conclude the feeding method does not have an impact on asthma risks if you follow the same logic the researchers use for reading and maths ability etc.”
There are many ways to feed an infant. No one should have to dig for erroneous or misleading information to validate their choices. Articles written about the issues like the twin study are inflammatory and confound an already distressing public health issue. Sticking to the facts and the science is the best way to help families make informed choices. There are reasons why breastfeeding may not be the right choice for a family, but misleading information and bad science shouldn’t be one of those reasons.
At any rate, whether you are an interested parent, a health educator or an advocate, this article can offer a clear and excellent synopsis of why the sibling study is flawed: Reports on breastfeeding sibling study are vastly overstated.
You may also be interested in checking out Did US researchers really find breastfeeding to be ineffective or harmful?