Breast Is Still Best

Breastfeeding is best for babies.
Breastfeeding is best for babies.

Meredith just reported on a British study that says breastmilk may not be enough nutrition for babies.

While that study is grabbing headlines, it can’t change history. Humans evolved to nourish their young from the breast. Breastmilk is the perfect food for babies. People were nourished on it for millenia before there was a baby formula industry, and they will be nourished on it in the future when the idea that breastmilk is somehow not right for babes is as antiquated and perverse a notion as using leeches to suck bad blood from the sick.

The real argument of the study isn’t that breastmilk itself is somehow insufficient, but that supplementation with solids should ideally begin at around four months instead of six. They claim waiting to introduce solids leads to a higher incidence of food allergies, iron deficiency and not liking vegetables.

I am not even joking.

They seriously said that not giving your baby dark green leafy vegetables until six months of age might leave too narrow a window for the baby to learn to enjoy those tastes, resulting in a hypothetical increased risk in childhood obesity.

It might be that breastfed babies have a slightly higher incidence of food allergy or iron deficiency. They do not have a higher incidence of obesity, as babies or children. Nothing about this study is inspiring my trust, its approach is so negative about breastfeeding. In addition to their fantastical claims about what a six-month diet of breastmilk might do to a child’s future fondness for veggies, they equate introducing solids with weaning. In fact, many breastfeeding mothers continue nursing  their babies for months and even years after they begin supplementing with solid food.

I’m all for baby-led weaning. When my babies started grabbing food off my plate, they got to eat some. For one of them that was around four months old; for the other it was more like seven. The reality was that for the first few months they were “eating” food, they weren’t really swallowing or digesting much at all. Their main nutrition for the first year of life was my milk. They had plenty of opportunities to taste leafy vegetables in that year, but they also had lots of chances to taste wooden blocks and dust bunnies. Neither girl has devloped a lasting affinity for eating those, happily.

Hopefully, the headlines generated by this study will spark discussion about the importance and value of breastfeeding for at least the first year of life, regardless of what other foods are introduced or when. Children thrive on the nutrition and immune support they get from mother’s milk. It’s already a struggle to support new moms in initiating and maintaining breastfeeding. The last thing they need is supposedly scientific studies making them think it might be bad for their kids.

Photo: diluvi

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