The benefits of breastfeeding have been greatly exaggerated, according to a leading expert.Whoops! So much for ‘settled science’…
Michael Kramer, a professor of paediatrics, claimed that much of the information used to persuade new mothers to breastfeed was either wrong or out-of-date.
Professor Kramer, who has spent more than 20 years studying the subject and been an adviser to the World Health Organisation and Unicef, believes a significant amount of evidence behind the claims is flawed.Really? Which bits?
NHS leaflets given to pregnant women and new mothers claim that breastfeeding protects against obesity, allergies, asthma and diabetes.Oh, dear. This will throw a spanner in the works of all the ‘breast is best’ advocates.
Professor Kramer's own work has failed to demonstrate that breastfeeding protects against asthma, allergies or childhood obesity.
It appears that some of the benefits observed and outlined in government advice and the glossy magazines favoured by yummy mummies is based on correlation, rather than causation:
However the professor claims that many of the supposed advantages can be explained by differences in lifestyle, with women who breastfeed being more likely to pass their healthy habits on to their family.Can we call the ASA about it then?
'There is very little evidence that it reduces the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma, bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
'I don't favour overselling the evidence - we should not be conveying false information.
'I think some of the advice promulgated on obesity or allergies is false information.'
He isn’t going to wait around to be accused of being in the pockets of the baby-formula companies – he has some criticism for them too:
He said the confusion was being exacerbated by competition between the formula milk industry and the breastfeeding lobby. Doctors, unwilling to side with big business, are being 'brainwashed' by those in favour of taking a natural approach.Sounds a lot like the ‘anthropogenic global warming’ crowd, doesn’t it?
'The formula milk industry jumps on every piece of equivocal evidence,' he said.
'But the breastfeeding lobby have a way of ignoring the evidence. Both sides are not being very scientific.'
And like them, the government is treating this new evidence by sticking its fingers in its ears and saying ‘La la la la I can’t hear you…’:
A spokesman added: 'The Government is fully committed to the promotion and support of breastfeeding, as it is the best form of nutrition providing all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life.Even though those groups pose more of a lifestyle risk than a bottle-feeding one to their children?
'Our ambition is to encourage and support more and more mothers to initiate and continue breastfeeding, and particularly to support mothers belonging to the disadvantaged groups.'
Jacque Gerrard, of the Royal College of Midwives, said: 'Breastfeeding is the right way to produce healthy babies.'Or, to translate: ‘Sod the new evidence, we’ve printed all these leaflets now…’