Categorized | Featured, Health

Health benefits of breast feeding possibly overstated

Updated: Jan 21, 2010

The many benefits of breastfeeding is something all mothers are familiar with, but are there really that many benefits? A Norwegian study is challenging this well established truth.

A recent study from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology have spurred several heated debates in Norway between researchers and breast feeding supporters.  The study claims that breast feeding is not the reason behind the added health benefit observed in kids which have been nursed.  The researchers is pointing towards hormones produced during the pregnancy as an explanatory factor for the benefits previously accredited to breast milk. Groups with factors such as overweight, smoking or hormonal disorders breastfeed less than their peers, which again can be traced back to hormonal production.  The explanation offered is that the conversion of testosterone to oestrogen in the placenta is corrupted, leading to higher than normal amounts of testosterone in the body during pregnancy.

“It’s thus not the woman’s will to breastfeed. Women who had more testosterone in their bodies during pregnancy feel the effects of a hormone that limits breastfeeding. That is clearly why it is not as easy to breastfeed.”

The researchers reassures women unable to nurse that baby formula is as good as breast milk, and that should not feel guilty for not being able to nurse.

Personally I have a split opinion of this; I appreciate the deed which the researchers seem to be doing by removing the guilt of anxious mothers struggling to breast feed, but it almost gives me the impression that the researchers think breast feeding is unnecessary.  This could again lead to cosmetic reasons to skip breastfeeding although one is perfectly capable, which would be a scary trend.  The two reasons the researchers mention to continue encouraging breast feeding is that formula is less environmental (heating milk and sterilizing bottles) and less economical in developing countries. Maybe the Iiamo bottle leaves parents with a more environmental way of heating milk, at least it seems to be much more efficient.

It seems unbelievable to me that breast feeding has no positive physiological effects, although they might be overstated by previous studies.  I think natural breast feeding should be encouraged, but maybe there should be more focus on not leaving those who can’t with a guilty conscience.

[Medical news today]


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25 Responses to “Health benefits of breast feeding possibly overstated”

  1. Hans Rippel says:

    here are two recent (2009) studies about this topic:

    "The recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible continues to be valid, as there was a significant preventive impact on the development of AD [allergic diseases] with the length of time breastfed. Prospective studies including lung function tests and immunological analyses need to be performed to confirm these findings."
    Acevedo Villafañe, C., Latorre Latorre, F., Cifuentes Cifuentes, L., Díaz-Martínez, L. A., & Garza Acosta, O. (2009). [Influence of breastfeeding and diet in the development of allergies in children.]. Atencion Primaria / Sociedad Española De Medicina De Familia Y Comunitaria, 41(12), 675-80.

    "Breast feeding is associated with a lower asthma risk in children until 8 years of age without evidence of attenuation and regardless of the family history of allergy."
    Scholtens, S., Wijga, A. H., Brunekreef, B., Kerkhof, M., Hoekstra, M. O., Gerritsen, J., et al. (2009). Breast feeding, parental allergy and asthma in children followed for 8 years. The PIAMA birth cohort study. Thorax, 64(7), 604-9.

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  3. Anyway it always will be more natural way to feed children. I even heard it has an influence on their confidence. Anyway nice article. Thank you.

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