Is Breast Really Best?
One academic thinks so. Joan Wolf is going head to head with La Leche League on the website Opposing Views (a neat concept in itself).
Before villifying Wolf, read what she has to say. She raises excellent questions about biases and omissions in the studies that have been used to label breastmilk the preferred baby food.
Better yet, read her complete article, "Is Breast Really Best? Risk and Total Motherhood in the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign." It will likely make you uncomfortable. It will challenge your fundamental assumptions about breastmilk, mothers, and public health campaigns.
The author and I were randomly assigned college roommates. She was a feminist, an honors student, a spitfire. I was not at all surprised she became an academic.
I read and commented to her on an early draft of the breastfeeding article. It shook me. I was surprised to learn how little is really known about the benefits of breastmilk over formula. So many of the studies that compare groups of babies who are breast or formula fed cannot control for other confounding factors.
I do not think Wolf is trying to undermine breastfeeding. Rather, she is saying that before we launch a national health campaign, we should make sure there is sound science to support it.
Obviously, I am a breastfeeding supporter. In part this is because of the very research Wolf questions. But it is also because I have a fundamental faith in the superiority of evolution over chemical engineering. I do not believe a feeding system that has sustained mammals for hundreds of thousands of years could be improved upon or even equalled by a few decades of tinkering in the lab.
I also find it more cosmically "right" to have mothers feeding babies from their bodies than from bottles.
But these things are arguments of faith, not reason.
Read for yourselves. Keep an open mind. Whether you end up persuaded or not, it is good to know the rational and scientific arguments for and against.
Even if in the end you return to faith.