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Lara Williams @ The Guardian - you should be VERY ashamed...

Until the last few months, I've always been a bit of a Guardian fan - but recently, you gotta wonder what's going on?  Has the economic slump got so bad they have decided to write a la tabloid style?  Fact no longer seems to be the foundation of a piece; instead the article I read today was not only misinformed, but downright fictional!  Hmmmm maybe some staff trades have taken place as the Daily Mail, hardly known for their progressive journalism, seems to be producing some startlingly good pieces!

For anyone who hasn't had the pleasure - here is the article by Lara Williams:

I should state at this point that I don't agree for a moment with Gisele Bündchen that women should be forced to breastfeed - heck we can't even manage to support those effectively who want to do it, let alone those who don't!  But Gisele is obviously informed as to the facts and I think however clumsily, was trying to emphasise it's importance, rather than suggesting the police force (who locally seem to struggle with teenage boys) move on to hormonal women!

Where to even start responding to this piece has taken an age, how to correct so much rubbish without turning it into a twelve page posting?

Let's start with that good old issue pulled out at every opportunity:


To make a choice you have to be in possession of facts, otherwise where's the choice?  I absolutely fully, truly and utterly support choice.  If a woman knowing all the ins and outs, decides not to breastfeed - that is her choice?  It might not be the choice I would make, I might not agree with the implications given the cost to the public health care system, or the impact on the environment BUT (and it's a big but) as breastfeeding quite obviously involves breasts, which are attached to another person - it's not a one way process and women can have deep and personal reasons about not breastfeeding.  Luckily we don't live in Indonesia!

Lara states:
Breast milk formula is getting closer and closer to having the same nutritional properties as breast milk, and it could be argued that it is more or less equal.
Well you could attempt that argument, but if it's to someone who has a clue the result is likely to be either  a) hearty laughter as people think you're being funny or b) people take pity on your utter ignorance and try to educate you.  Oh and what on earth is "breastmilk formula" ?

The trouble is in the UK "constituents of breastmilk" doesn't feature on the curriculum.  The vast majority of women have no clue about the ins and outs of either feeding method pre children - and then, their baby is born into a culture where the vast majority use a supplement, and writers like Lara actually earn money for writing an article that undermines breastfeeding further.  The sad thing is women like Lara are writing about a topic of paramount importance to the public, with such a blatant lack of knowledge and doesn't even realise it!  Likely neither will the vast majority of readers.  Perhaps I should write some articles on triple bypass heart surgery?  I have zero knowledge or experience but hey the Guardian doesn't seem to care about that - c'mon nowadays McDonalds is nearly as nutritious as homegrown organic, and many doctors are saying now that diet has nothing to do with coronary health....honest

So this choice, what about the women who choose to breastfeed, that IS their choice - but fail to get support or for people to realise how important it is to them, or "feel guilty" for asking for help as everyone is telling them to "just give a bottle", or does choice only work when you are choosing to default from the norm?

The fact is that breastmilk substitutes are in no way close to breastmilk, they might be "closer" than they were a year ago or two, but what does that mean when there are still at least a hundred constituents that substitute manufacturers can't hope to replicate?  As I always say, I might be financially closer to that Bentley than I was at 18, doesn't mean I'm anywhere near close! (but that's the clever marketing often used)

Formula is a static, dead product.  Breastmilk is a living fluid like blood containing a myriad of amazing constituents that many don't even begin to understand, and which impact in an astonishing number of ways.  For any health professionals working with breastfeeding mothers, those involved with lactation or anyone with a basic sciencey background who wants the full lowdown - I would highly recommend BE01 "Breastmilk Composition & Function".  A fully referenced course which is eye opening!

I think perhaps the worst line in the article is:
many doctors now argue infants in these very early stages of life are unlikely to develop infections anyway
Is Lara for real?  Seriously?  I actually had to read this line several times - young babies are no longer amongst the most vulnerable in society (along with the elderly)  the cost of treating their infections as stated in the Infant Feeding Survey was obviously made up?

Newborns are very susceptible to illness; they have a tiny fraction of the immunity they will develop as adults, and furthermore their immature system has also yet to learn how to respond effectively.  Any harmful pathogen or germ has the potential to invade and spread VERY quickly.
The newborn is in a very special situation when leaving the sterile and protected environment of the mother's uterus. The infant has to handle many new demands. Besides taking in food, the infant also has to meet a new environment which includes the presence of a multitude of microbes. Without an adequate defense against infectious agents, the neonate runs a very high risk of acquiring threatening infections. From this point of view, the neonatal period and the first year of life are the most dangerous times in man's life.
1.# Hanson LA (2007) The role of breastfeeding in the defense of the infant

This is why breastmilk contains a whole passive immune system perfectly matched to the infant.  The antibodies that are at very low levels are abundant in breastmilk, providing defense against infection ; directly seeking and targeting problem pathogens, directing immune cells, teaching the immature system what needs responding to and how, plus a whole host of other things - hormone regulators, cancer targeting, and cells that can change into other required cells; and this is only scratching the surface.

If anyone knows a doctor making the claims Lara says -  PLEASE send them my email address as I would love to hear their rationale!

Anyway, to finish I thought I would re-write some of Lara's article the right way up, taking breastmilk as the norm (which given it's milk of the same species is where it should be!)
Whereas once artificially feeding was accepted as ok - infant formula is now emphatically worst.  Breastmilk substitutes are said to reduce intelligence, and reduces ability to fend off illness, amongst a multitude of other disadvantages.

There runs a vast gamut of studies advising women not to artificially feed. The Copenhagen-based Centre for Advanced Food Studies has found artificially fed babies develop a less sophisticated palate. A Million Women "nun" study found that when testing women who had breastfed against actual nuns (who had never breastfed, for obvious reasons), those who had not breastfed were more likely to develop breast cancer. Artificial feeding it would seem, isn't blessed.  But as important as research is, the authenticity of reasons to not formula feed are diluted. And a woman's right to have a choice gets lost along the way.

Non breastfed babies are more prone to infection than their breastfed counter parts

This fascination with breastmilk substitutes is yet further removal of a woman's agency over her own body. Women's bodies, and what they chose to do with them, are laid out for public consumption and comment. What's more, this reinforces the emphasis of anyone and everyone as caregivers.

With an insurmountable myriad of things to worry about as a new mother, whether to artificially feed or not is something you should feel able to decide for yourself. According to the Department of Health, ninety nine out of a hundred mothers use breastmilk substitutes for the first six months.
Here is the Daily Mails offering for yesterday

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