Latest on the Benefits of Breastfeeding Is Good News for Formula Feeders

For a great many parents, breastfeeding was or is hard work. We trade hours of sleep and sore and bloody nipples in exchange for the promise that we're providing our babies with the best nutrition they can possibly get. We've read studies, listened to our doctors and friends wax poetic about breast milk, and there's no doubt in our minds that breast is simply best.

But what if the benefits of breastfeeding have been overstated? What if you found out your child could receive the exact same health benefits from formula? A new study is claiming just that.

Rather than just look across the board at a random group of children from various socioeconomic backgrounds, the recent study, performed by Ohio State University, also concentrated on siblings within the same family -- one of whom was breastfed and the other bottle fed.

They did find additional benefits among those children who were breastfed when they compared them to children from other backgrounds. But the truly eye-opening part of this study is that when they focused on siblings, breastfeeding's positive effects on 10 of the 11 "indicators of child health and well-being" were really no different from the effects of formula.

More from The Stir: Mom Wins 'Right' for All of Us to Breastfeed on Airline Without Covering Up

So, basically, two brothers who were fed differently as babies didn't grow up to experience wildly different body mass indexes, scholastic competence, math and vocabulary skills, levels of hyperactivity, or attachment to their parents. In fact, the only major difference researchers could find was that babies who were breastfed were at higher risk for asthma -- but this information was generated by self-reports and not doctors' diagnoses.

The lead author of the study stresses that she still believes breastfeeding is beneficial for nutrition and building immunity in newborns. But she's also arguing that her data reveals many of the benefits we associate with breast milk could have a lot more to do with school quality, housing, and parents' education and employment.

This is an interesting study, and I wonder whether it will serve as hope for women who are physically unable to breastfeed, can't because of work obligations, or have simply decided against it for personal reasons. As a mom who is about to give birth for the second time and had a difficult time breastfeeding the first time around, I'd be lying if I said this doesn't make me feel like I can take a bit of pressure off myself.

How do you feel about the results of this new study? Would this information sway you to consider formula instead of breast milk?


Image via nerissa's ring/Flickr



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Claudia Castello

This is great news to hear and should get anti-formula people off their backs.

Michelle Delorme

What about the fact that breastmilk contains cells that can destroy cancer. We know formula contains ingredients like manganese that are harmful.

kjbug... kjbugsmom1517

Nope. Just solidified that I didnt poison my babies who r now perfectly healthy happy school kids.

Carmen Rosa Selame

Knowing the scientific studies done on breast milk as well as the history of formula, I would say, no, this won't sway me, and I'm about to give birth to my third child. My first two were/are nursing for 3.5 years. Further, this is one study done against the hundreds done on breast milk. There's a lot more this researcher will need to do before her results can be considered conclusive. Can she repeat her results? And what were the circumstances leading to one sibling being nursed and the other not? Also, did she take into consideration duration of breastfeeding for the breastfed sibling? Lastly, did her study take into consideration the benefits to the mother of both breastfeeding and formula-feeding and compare those results? These are just a few things to keep in mind when looking into a study like this. Remember too, formula as we know it is barely 100 years into its development.

maest... maestrarobin

In order for any of the breastfeeding data to be credible, researchers must control for other variables (mothers' socioeconomic, educational level, etc).  This study is a step in the right direction, but it does need to be repeated. If you read the actual study the authors do say that breastfeeding is beneficial: in the short term.  However, to make real, profound effects on a child's life more attention should be given to a child's education, his home environment, and the employment opportunities his parents have.  Breastfeeding your child is not going to make or break his future, but these other things very well could.  That is the point of the article.

Frost... FrostyMelted

Breastfeed. Formula feed. Do whatever works for you and stop letting loud mouths sway you one way or the other. The only people who care which one you use are people with no life. Because your baby so your busienss and nobody else's.

Alisha Haskett

Exactly Frosty. And kjbugs, there is something seriously wrong in that screwed up head of yours. 

sterl... sterling21

That's good news for people who cannot breastfeed. Those who choose not to breastfeed usually don't care what studies say, and they really miss out.

Sarah... SarahHall58

Frosty. Thank you. Seriously.

Sarah... SarahHall58

Oh and sterling. I CHOSE not to breast feed. And I do care what studies say. I've read a lot of them. For both sides. But people choose not to breast feed for different reasons and it doesn't make us bad people or stupid people or ignorant people. That was pretty offensive and it's typically hard to offend me.

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