Breastfeeding Is Normal Feeding
Breastfeeding advocates often discuss the "benefits of breastfeeding" or the "advantages of breastfeeding." The truth is that breastfeeding is not so special; it is the normal way to feed a baby. It is the natural biological continuum of pregnancy and what your baby is primed for in utero.
A Bottle Feeding Culture
Until the 1930s nearly all babies were breastfed. Artificial baby milks grew out of a need to feed babies in orphanages. As these milks became easier, cheaper and safer to make, the baby milk manufactures realized the huge profit to be made. Meanwhile pediatrics emerged as a new specialty early in the 20th century. The new pediatricians tried to make infant feeding more "scientific", something to be measured and timed. Formula feeding was far more scientific than letting unlearned women put their babies to their breasts. By the middle of the twentieth century, most doctors were not encouraging breastfeeding and most women did not choose this form of feeding. Many more women were leaving their babies to go work long before good breast pumps were available. As a result, ours became a culture of bottle-feeding.
The Change In Attitude
With the advancement of science, researchers have discovered the many health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby and the doctors have changed their tune. They are urging each other to use their position to promote breastfeeding. However, it is very difficult to change cultural beliefs.
Special Versus Normal
Calling breastfeeding "Best" implies that artificial feeding is OK or even normal. Some babies have a real need for formula especially since donor milk is not readily available. But these babies are the exception and not the norm. The American Association of Pediatricians statement on breastfeeding and the use of human milk (2005) states, "Exclusive breastfeeding is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development and all other short and long-term outcomes." The American Academy of Family Physicians states in its breastfeeding position paper "because breastfeeding is the physiologic norm, we will refer to the risks of not breastfeeding for infants, children, and mothers."
Women will put less effort into doing something extra special than they will put into avoiding something risky. The formula companies are well aware of this. Just last year they used their influence to stop a US government sponsored ad campaign that focused on the "risks" of artificial feeding.
Cultural Norms Have Influenced Science
Not only the media but even the researchers refer to breastfeeding as the exception. Studies compare control groups and experimental groups. The control group represents the norm while the experimental group has something done to it. When a study is done showing that breastfeeding lowers the risk of a certain disease, breastfeeding is the experimental group and artificial feeding is the control group. The study should be on the effects of artificial feeding.
Women will not be able to truly make informed decisions regarding how to feed their infants until we call breastfeeding by its real name, the biological and physiological norm.
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