Sometimes an article is published that just makes you scratch your head and wonder what were they thinking. This is one of those and is one that I can’t believe was actually published.
The authors of this paper feel that it is dangerous to label breastfeeding as “natural” because it may (gasp!) actually cause people to believe that doing things the natural way could be beneficial. Their main issue is that if people feel breastfeeding is natural then they will automatically be drawn to other natural practices like not immunizing their children. The decision to immunize or not is obviously a very hot button topic right now but to lump breast feeding in with it and use that as a pro-vaccine jumping off point is just irresponsible.
In the article the authors main concern seems to be how calling breast feeding natural will affect vaccination rates. However they also take aim at other natural choices a parent may make. They worry parents will do other crazy natural things like questioning GMO foods, or the benefits of organic vs. conventionally grown foods. From their paper: “Promoting breastfeeding as “natural” may be ethically problematic, and, even more troubling, it may bolster this belief that “natural” approaches are presumptively healthier.”
In fact the authors feel so strongly about the negative implications of all things natural that they feel natural should be removed from all breast feeding promotion even if using it causes more women to start breast feeding. A quote from their paper: “We should think twice before referencing the “natural” in breastfeeding promotion, even if it motivates women to breastfeed.”
So these authors would rather women use formula, which has been shown to be far less healthy for babies and can even have high levels of aluminum in it, than breastfeed. Which of course could lead to doing other natural things.(Oh the horror!)
Promoting breastfeeding as natural has been done specifically to increase its practice, especially in low income and African American women. These are the two groups with historically the lowest rates of breastfeeding. There is no need to remove the word natural from the promotion for fear of mothers making other natural choices.
There is nothing more natural than breast feeding and there is nothing better for the mother and child. To take that out of the conversation is insanity. In fact the journals own breast feeding committee wrote a rebuttal to the article condemning its message.
I usually write these articles to highlight a research study that you can use to lead a healthier lifestyle but sometimes I have to comment on one like this. It shows that even when reading research in a respected peer reviewed journal you have to use common sense and realize that sometimes the crazy still gets published.
By: Dr. Scott Szela
Ref: Pediatrics 2016 Mar 4. Pii:peds.2015-4154