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Political science professor says “The truth is that breastfeeding research is not very good, and there’s a lot we don’t know.”

Courtney Jung, a political science professor based at the University of Toronto, has wrote a controversial new book based on her study of hundreds of scientific papers on the subject.

In an article on Vox, Professor Jung says she decided to breastfeed her children because she believed the “conventional wisdom surrounding breastfeeding”. Because she’s a political scientist, she also decided to try to find out how much of the conventional wisdom was true, “only to find that much of it was far removed from what scientists actually knew” to be true.

Professor Jung says she breastfed her own children, “figuring they’d reap the much-publicised benefits and be better off for it” but her research uncovered “strong evidence” that breastfeeding has “no impact” on obesity, diabetes or allergies.

“The truth is that breastfeeding research is not very good, and there’s a lot we don’t know,” she writes. “But here is what we do know: according to the director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, six women have to breastfeed exclusively for six months in order to prevent a single ear infection.”

She says: “There is strong evidence that breastfeeding has no impact on obesity or type 1 diabetes, asthma, allergies, dental cavities, or the following types of cancer: acute non-lymphoblastic leukaemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, central nervous system cancers, malignant germ cell tumours, juvenile bone tumours, and other solid cancers.

“The evidence of other long-term health benefits, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, or Type 2 diabetes, is either weak or inconclusive.”

Professor Jung also notes that “there is no research comparing health outcomes among babies who are breastfed with babies who are fed human breast milk from a bottle”.

“There are reasons to think breastfeeding and bottle-feeding with pumped milk may not be the same thing,” she says.

“If breastfeeding protects against infection, breast milk that has been pumped, stored, refrigerated or frozen, and thawed may not.

“At any point in the process breast milk could pick up bacteria that might actually cause illness.

“If breastfeeding improves cognitive development, some experts believe it is because of intense mother-child interaction at the breast, not because of the chemical composition of human milk.”

I wish breastfeeding, or anything, actually, could protect babies from just about every illness they might encounter.

“Most of this is bad news. I wish breastfeeding, or anything, actually, could protect babies from just about every illness they might encounter. I wish American women didn’t feel compelled to pump breast milk in a broom closet so someone else could feed their babies breast milk from a bottle. I wish that all women who wanted to breastfeed actually could.”

“Still, it’s better to know, because it might help us reconsider the way we approach breastfeeding. Do we really want to embrace breastfeeding with the passion we have, given that it sets us up for wildly unequal parenting obligations and has little health benefit for our children? Do we really want to fall for this whole pumping thing? Shouldn’t we give some thought to whether a market in human breast milk is a good idea?

I worry that there’s a lot going on here that has sort of snuck up on us. Reasonable people will reasonably disagree about many of the strange new realities surrounding breastfeeding. But at least we should start talking about them.”

Share your thoughts below.

Image – stock photo

  • Ok, so the current research says it might not decrease the risk of certain illnesses. It doesn’t increase the risk of those diseases though. Research can only go so far, and there are proven health benefits for other diseases. I was lucky to be able to breastfeed all my bubs and loved every minute. I remember watching my 3 year old feeding her baby doll while I was feeding her brother. Sometimes she would bottle feed (her brother had EBM feeds sometimes) and other times she would lift her shirt and breast feed her doll too. Mothers choice is right!

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  • I loved breastfeeding my children and i did it because it worked for me and my bubs.

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  • It’s reasonable to say there are gaps in the research.

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  • It is certainly interesting – I wouldn’t mind reading the book.

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  • It still doesn’t change my mind about breastfeeding. Its natural so to me there is nothing better

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  • I actually just see benefits in breastfeeding and I wish to every woman that wants to breastfeed, to be able to do so.

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  • There would be benefits to breastmilk they can’t recreate through formula though, and some women don’t even try to breastfeed which amazes me as it’s wonderful to do. They need to help make it more normal and formula just as an alternative for when a women can’t breastfeed as it used to be. :)


    • yeah formula is the last resort, not the first

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  • If you can breastfeed, do so. If, for whatever reason, you can’t, don’t. Simples.


    • lol simple. well said. and no one should make you feel bad for your choice.

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  • Yes, heaven forbid that you give your child the nutrition designed specifically for them. “Do we really want to embrace breastfeeding with the passion we have, given that it sets us up for wildly unequal parenting obligations and has little health benefit for our children?”
    Yes because why the hell wouldn’t you want to give your child the absolute best that they can get?
    And what the hell does equal parenting obligations have to do with it? You don’t breastfeed because parenting should be split down the middle 50/50?
    Idiotic.

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  • Isn’t that a bit like “climate change and global warming aren’t real”?

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  • wow interesting article, I’m sure that this book will put alot of people off, but I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, some aren’t as lucky to get their’s published in book form!

    Reply

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