The controversy

You might notice that some of the articles on The Truth About Breastfeeding directly contradict information widely available elsewhere on the Web, including sites of a purportedly medical or scientific nature. When this happens it is not in an attempt to create controversy. The only ‘agenda’ of The Truth About Breastfeeding is to report the facts as they currently appear based on the scientific evidence, so that women can make informed choices about the way they feed their babies, and deal with any problems that arise in the most expedient way. Unfortunately, many other information sources simply recycle out of date or inaccurate information, without checking its validity.

So that you know the information contained here is based on the scientific evidence, links to any studies that are discussed are provided at the bottom of each post. Hopefully, the studies reported are those most recent and relevant to the topic: if you notice anything missing, please get in touch!

4 Responses to “The controversy”

  1. clare Says:

    Hi- I’m struggling with milk supply problems and tiredness of demand feeding and would like to introduce some formula feeds 1 or 2 a day. I haven’t yet as I feel guilty even thinking it, how bad is this sort of supplementation?

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Hi Clare – sorry to hear you’re finding demand feeding tiring at the moment – I know from experience it can be truly exhausting.

      I was wondering firstly how long you’d been breastfeeding, and secondly whether you’re really having supply problems (e.g. your baby isn’t gaining weight – see not enough milk – the symptoms you don’t need to worry about) or whether it is the frequency of feeding that is getting on top of you at the moment.

      As you probably already know, when your baby feeds frequently your milk supply will generally increase to meet his or her needs, so there should be no need to supplement with formula, at least from your baby’s perspective.

      If you do decide to supplement your supply will decrease, as your breasts produce milk according to how much and how frequently they are emptied. This does not mean that if you introduce formula your milk will disappear completely, it simply means that your supply will adjust to doing fewer feeds. The reason this kind of supplementation is viewed as ‘bad’, however, is that aside from the fact formula does not necessarily have the health benefits of breast milk, there is evidence that the reduction in supply can cause women to think their milk is drying up, and make them more likely to give up breastfeeding. Once you’ve started to supplement, it is possible to go back to exclusive breastfeeding, but it can be quite difficult, as you have to build up your supply again.

      Demand feeding can be really, well, demanding at times, but if you hang in there for a bit longer, you may well find that it gets much easier – your supply will increase and the length and frequency of feeding will decrease as your baby becomes able to take more milk in one go. Having said that, if you really find that you can’t cope without supplementing, it’s worth keeping in mind that it doesn’t mean you have to stop breastfeeding completely. As long as you recognize that you won’t produce as much milk, and you understand why your supply has decreased, you should hopefully avoid the `slippery slope’ to weaning before you and your baby are ready.

  2. Hazel Jones Says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    I love your blog – really encouraging to see a good science angle with BF. I just wondered what your thoughts are about the language we so often use about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding?

    ”Health comparisons use a biological, not cultural, norm, whether the deviation is harmful or helpful. Smokers have higher rates of illness; increasing prenatal folic acid may reduce fetal defects. Because breastfeeding is the biological norm, breastfed babies are not “healthier;” artificially-fed babies are ill more often and more seriously. ”

    Diane Wiessenger ‘Watch your language’

    Many thanks,

    • Elizabeth Jay Says:

      Hi Hazel,

      I get really frustrated that formula feeding is portrayed as the norm, as it inevitably marginalises mothers who breastfeed. I suspect this makes life most difficult for young mothers, who may be particularly sensitive about being given a ‘swot’ label. It’s also a shame for mothers who would like to breastfeed, but are feeling pressure not to from their friends/partner/family.

      Having said that, given the rhetoric in the media about the terrible pressure women feel to breastfeed, I can’t see things changing soon. If the NHS chose to focus solely on the problems caused by formula, there would be a full-scale revolt on mumsnet (although I’m sure there would be a lot of support too).

      I know there is a movement towards changing the language surrounding breastfeeding, and I am supportive of this. It will be interesting to see whether it gains any ground in the next few years.

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