Viewpoint: The Breastfeeding Police Are Wrong About Formula

Pediatric researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have just discovered something that anthropologists (and moms around the world) have known for years. You do not have to go all-or-nothing on breastfeeding in the very beginning in order to breastfeed successfully long-term.

In fact, a new paper in the journal Pediatrics has found that early limited formula feeding actually increases the rate of long term exclusive breastfeeding. The difference was quite dramatic. 79 % of 3 month old infants who received early supplementation were being breastfed exclusively, while only 42% of babies who received no supplements were still being exclusively breastfed at 3 months.

Breast-feeding activists have long argued that supplemention is detrimental to breast-feeding. It is a position that has been codified in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (“Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated”) and programs such as New York City’s Latch on NYC, which goes so far as to lock up formula as if it were a dangerous drug.

... many other cultures—some with much higher breast-feeding rates than ours—infants are given other  liquids until a mother’s milk comes in. According to a review of 25 previously published studies of tens of thousands of mother-infants pairs in such countries as India, China, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, a significant portion of women (from 25 to 50 %) delayed breastfeeding for an average of 66 hours. Many of these infants received supplemental fluids, some of which are even imputed to have ritual significance.

One of the greatest barriers to breastfeeding in this country is the unreasonable expectations set by breastfeeding advocates. They are loathe to admit that many babies may benefit from supplementation in the first days after birth, that some babies will require more milk than their mothers produce, and that many mothers must return to work within weeks and simply cannot breastfeed exclusively. Instead of acknowledging those realities, they have alienated new mothers with their all-or-nothing approach, leaving most women to figure out a method of combining breast and formula feeding that works for them on their own. [emphasis mine]

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