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Scientific evidence for breastfeeding

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Old December 5th 03, 03:39 AM
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Default Scientific evidence for breastfeeding

I started this in the the thread about the US PSA being changed
because of pressure from the formula companies, but since it's kind of
long and off-topic thought it made more sense to start a new thread.

Not that anyone asked :-), but IMO the only gold-standard scientific
evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding has just barely started
coming out. So far all studies have compared breastfed children to
formula fed children (or kids fed donor milk vs. formula), and it's
pretty much impossible to truly control for the fact that independent
of education, race, income, etc there are fundamental differences
between a mom/family who chooses to bf vs. ff. You obviously can't to
a randomized controlled trial of bf vs. ff, since it would be
unethical to assign babies to something that's known to be inferior.

So I think it's incredibly exciting what this one group has done in
Belarus. They randomized hospitals and clinics to either the
full-scale WHO baby-friendly hospital initiative or to just a few
pro-bf educational talks with the staff. Moms and babies in each set
of hospitals were the same at the start, but moms in the baby-friendly
arm were more likely to breastfeed. Now they have two populations who
are *known* to be equivalent and they can compare on a population
level (though not the level of individual babies) various outcomes
related to breastfeeding. They've so far only published two papers.
The first found a decrease in diarrhea and eczema over a year, but not
respiratory infections. The second looked at growth of bf vs. ff
babies and found that apart from the first few months the differences
did not appear to be related to bf vs. ff.

So we'll see if the loooong list of everything that breastfeeding
supposedly prevents pans out -- my suspicion is that some things will
have to be crossed off. In addition to being healthy in and of
itself, breastfeeding can also be a marker of health conciousness and
willingness to invest in your kids, so it makes sense that families
who breastfeed also do other good things for their kids health that
aren't able to be measured previous studies. But what does stand will
have absolutely rock-solid evidence to support it that *no one* will
be able to argue away.

and the Bug, June 8 2003

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