I can feel a controversy brewing.
Joan Wolf, an American academic, examines the medical studies on breastfeeding in painstaking detail in her forthcoming book.
“The evidence to date suggests it probably doesn’t make much difference if you breastfeed.”
And the many of the world's leading experts agree. While breastfeeding is beneficial for babies, some of its benefits have apparently been 'oversold' to new mothers. Wolf, herself a mother and one that did breastfeed her babies, says she was shocked by the information that she found. One of the major problems she says is that it is very hard to separate the benefits of the mother’s milk from the benefits of the kind of mother who chooses to breastfeed. In the UK, for example, the highest class of women are 60 per cent more likely to breastfeed than the lowest, so it is not surprising that research shows that breastfed infants display all the health and educational benefits they were born into. In effect, breastfeeding studies could simply be showing what it’s like to grow up in a family that makes an effort to be healthy and responsible, as opposed to anything positive in breast milk.
Michael Kramer, professor of paediatrics at McGill University, Montreal agrees. He has advised the World Health Organisation, Unicef and the esteemed scientific body, the Cochrane Library, and been conducting research into the health effects of breastfeeding since 1978. “The public health breastfeeding promotion information is way out of date,” Kramer says. The trouble is, he said, that the breastfeeding lobby is at war with the formula milk industry, and “neither side is being very scientific ... when it becomes a crusade, people are not very rational.”