Some critics of this blog have taken issue with the fact that I “promote” formula feeding as a legitimate choice. It’s alright to support those who tried to breastfeed and failed for some medical reason, they say. But no mother should knowingly put her child at risk by opting for the bottle.
- Women who delay having children until later in life (meaning their mid-30s or beyond) risk damaging the fertility of their daughters, according to a study from American Society of Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans
- From March of Dimes: Women ages 40 and older are more likely than women in their 20s and 30s to deliver prematurely, are about 2 or 3 times more likely to have a stillborn baby, and have a significantly higher risk of chromosonal problems like Down Syndrome
- The risk of seven of the 10 most common childhood cancers increases slightly, about seven to 10 percent, with every five-year increase in maternal age, according to a study from the University of Minnesota.
- Women who put off having children until after the age of 30 are twice as likely to develop hereditary breast cancer, experts have warned. (I found this particularly interesting, considering breastfeeding also lowers the same type of breast cancer risk. So basically, you get the same protective effects by having kids a bit earlier as you do from breastfeeding. There’s a choice for you.)
A 2003 article on MSNBC discussed a myriad of studies about babies born through Assisted Reproductive Technologies, showing that they were:
- “more than twice as likely as infants in the general population to be born underweight (6.5 percent vs. 2.5 percent), putting them at risk for breathing difficulties and other potentially deadly health problems at birth as well as developmental difficulties down the line.”
- “more than twice as likely as naturally conceived infants to have major birth defects (9 percent vs. 4.2 percent), including problems with the heart and urinary or genital tracts.”
- privy to a “five- to seven-fold increased risk of a rare form of eye cancer known as retinoblastoma.”
Another article in The Guardian warned that kids born through IVF and other fertility treatments:
- Were four times more likely to have autism than those born to fertile parents.
- Had a higher risk of more minor problems – the incidence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rose by 40%, and other medical conditions affecting hearing and sight nearly doubled.
Side note: the MSNBC article went on to explain that “Common sense would say that a lot of people have been through this and most of their children are doing well…It’s really a question of subtlety and small differences.”
I wonder what would happen if a doctor said the same about the breastfeeding studies?
- A British study found that children of working moms are at greater risk of becoming obese than offspring of those who stay home.
- Another British study claims that children of working mothers are “more likely to do worse at school, become unemployed and to suffer mental stress than youngsters whose mothers stay at home to bring them up…According to the study, the impact of having a full-time working mother on a child’s education is similar to growing up in a single-parent family..They also reject the idea that a child is helped if the father stays at home, showing that his absence has little effect on the child’s educational success.”
Imagine the uproar that would happen if these studies were used to guilt women into not working, or sacrificing other goals to have kids earlier, or not having kids at all. I’d be on the front lines of those protests. I bet a lot of other lactivists (many of whom are self-proclaimed feminists as well) would be too.
This is why I think it’s important for someone to be offering a bit of devil’s advocation regarding the breastfeeding hype. Even if you believe each and every study that says that formula feeding causes obesity, cancer, autism, etc… equivalent risks have been shown in other studies examining other choices we make as parents. We’re all doing our best, and who am I to judge another woman’s “best”?
So, yeah: I support every woman who chooses to formula feed. It’s just food. It’s good food. It may not be organic, pure, human milk. But it’s a good enough substitute that will nourish our kids well, and we are lucky to live in an age when this is an option. We are living in an age when a woman whose husband is at war can choose to feed her baby in a way that reduces a little of her (understandable) stress. When a second-time mom can look back on a bad nursing experience and decide to proactively protect her new baby (and herself) from that hell. When there is a wonderful thing called the Internet, where these women can find support for these loving, wise choices.
I hope that answers the question. But I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that it doesn’t. 🙂