Another day, another breastfeeding story. The BBC this morning have been running the story on what appears to be an almost continuous loop about how the University of Brazil has scientifically proven that breastfed babies are brainier and earn more money…therefore breast is best.
I’ve written at length on my feelings regarding breastfeeding and I’m not going to hash that out all over again but here’s what I say to the University of Brazil: WE KNOW!!!!!!!
Jeez…enough already! We all know that breastfeeding is amazing. We all know that, in an ideal world where we never get wrinkles, cellulite doesn’t exist and sugar is good for you, we would all be breastfeeding our babies until they are 23 years old. We’ve know this for ages, University of Brazil, and there are a million other studies that all conclude with the same thing: breast is best (I hate that fucking phrase).
All this study is, is another sledgehammer to batter women with. The large majority of women want to breastfeed. If they don’t, it’s probably not because they can’t be arsed; it’s more likely that they’ve really struggled with it, that it’s meant weeks and weeks of excruciating pain, perhaps it’s led to depression, infection, hospitalisation, an unhappy baby, an unhappy momma, an unhappy household. Perhaps they have to go back to work to pay the bills at three months, or earlier…perhaps they didn’t have enough milk, or any milk at all. There are a multitude of reasons why women don’t breastfeed for six months or at all and the least common of these reasons is because they just didn’t feel like it.
Of course, there are women who know, right from the start, that they don’t want to breastfeed and that’s ok too because while you may or may not agree, it’s their decision.
This study says that breastfeeding leads to brainier babies with higher earning potentials. OK. Great. What I don’t see is how much brainier these kids were…it just says they scored higher. If the difference is a matter of one or two points, then it’s not really news. If it’s a significant difference, then the fact that formula is making kids stupid is obviously quite a serious issue that needs addressing. The fact that it’s not being presented as a serious issue that needs addressing suggests that the differences were, in fact, minimal.
Also, the study assumes that having the brainiest kid who earns the most money is a really important thing. I don’t know about you but, while I’d rather my kid wasn’t a total halfwit, there are other things that are also pretty essential in life. I’d quite like her to have an aptitude for sports, or music, or creativity. I’d probably rather she was super-sociable than the brainiest kid on the block. For all we know, perhaps formula fed babies are more compassionate or selfless. Who says being the brainiest is the be all and end all? From my experience the ‘brainiest’ people are often the least interesting.
And aren’t there other things that impact intelligence? Schooling? Parenting? Socialisation? Experiences? What about a child’s emotional intelligence? If all this study is saying is that breastfed babies are better at fractions than those fed formula then I don’t think we need to be all that worried.
We only have to look around at our family, our friends to realise that this theory doesn’t hold true consistently. Plus, anyone born in the 70s who heard this news piece will be wondering just how smart they could have been if their mums hadn’t jumped on the oh, so fashionable formula wagon during that decade. Perhaps, if mothers in the 70s had breastfed their babies, we could have grown the geniuses required to cure cancer or live on Mars.
Which frankly, in the light of all this boob-fuelled madness, is quite an appealing prospect at the moment.
Quite simply: we know breastfeeding is the very best option. We know this. We don’t need to be beaten over the head with anymore studies ‘proving’ it. Perhaps, if the money spent on these studies went to supporting compassionate and trained professionals to help struggling women with breastfeeding we’d all be a lot better off.
There will be women all over the country today, crying because they’re boobs are in more pain than they ever thought possible, crying because they feel complete failures about not being able to feed their baby, worrying themselves silly because they are not providing their baby with gallons and gallons of breastmilk. These women will have watched this programme, and it won’t have helped them one bit. It won’t have provoked them to ask for help, it won’t have made them feel empowered or strong, it will have made them feel pressured and anxious and guilty and very, very sad.
So stop with the breastfeeding battering. We know. We get it. We are really trying.