It's no surprise that the backlash against Michael Kramer, a professor of paediatrics at Canada's McGill University, has begun. Yesterday it was reported that he has advised the World Health Organisation that much of the evidence used to convince mothers that they should breastfeed is either wrong or so out of date it's obsolete.
He insists: "The public health breastfeeding promotion information is way out of date. There is very little evidence that it reduces the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma, bowel disease, heart disease and high blood pressure"
Today, the backlash begins, including the Daily Mail, which is carrying an article Lucy Cavendish, mother of four, who insists that not only is much of the science already backed up by good research, but also makes the point that breastfeeding is cheaper, more hygienic, and also gives you a special bond with your baby.
However, both Michael Kramer and Lucy Cavendish seem to agree that a lot of the apparent benefits of breastfeeding may be skewed by the fact that it is mainly middle class women who breastfeed. The problem comes because so many women who can't breastfeed feel vilified (though many childcare experts insist that this can nearly always be fixed, if only the right advice and help is made available) and so debating the benefits becomes a tussle between one side that's seen as sanctimonious, and another that is seen as somehow remiss.
Much of the scientific evidence may be out of date (which suggests that further research is needed, rather than simply saying it's out of date and therefore invalid), but that doesn't change the fact that breastfeeding is better for the environment, cheaper, more convenient (for some!) and - let's not forget - normal. If you can't manage it, you shouldn't be made to feel like a failure, but if you don't even bother trying then it's no surprise that society emits a collective *tut*.
Western society has made the idea of using your boobs as a food source seem somehow dirty and wrong, and reports like this to the WHO don't really help matters.
What do you think? Did you breastfeed? Did you manage to rear a healthy and intelligent individual with formula and think the whole thing is a load of hooey? Let us know in the comments.
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