Do We Really Need More Studies Concluding That “Breast is Best”?
Another study was published this month showing a connection between breastfeeding for greater than 6 months and better motor, language, and cognitive development.
I read through the paper asking myself, “hasn’t this been shown already”? Well, it turns out that the connection between extended breastfeeding and motor/cognitive development has been demonstrated, but this is the first study demonstrating the positive connection with language development.
On the one hand, it is interesting to watch the evolution and growth of the body of literature supporting breastfeeding. It is, after all, very compelling. On the other hand, I must admit that I often feel frustrated watching the accumulation of paper after paper after paper showing the clear benefits of breastfeeding.
Why frustrated? Well, don’t we already know what all these papers are saying over and over again? Quite frankly, no one with a head half-screwed on properly is wondering whether or not breastfeeding is worthwhile. The challenge we’re facing is the fact that most new mothers express the desire to exclusively breastfeed, but don’t end up succeeding.
We have more than enough compelling evidence that health care providers, insurance companies, public health departments and all levels of government should be advocating for and supporting mothers breastfeeding their infants. Yet, day after day, I watch families struggling (sometimes suffering significantly) for no reason other than they didn’t get the breastfeeding support they needed: Their physician was not adequately trained in breastfeeding medicine, they received conflicting information from each healthcare practitioner they visited, they couldn’t find (or afford) a lactation consultant, they were advised (inappropriately) that formula is just as good as human breast milk, they were told to stop breastfeeding because of the antibiotics mom was prescribed or because of the cold she just acquired. A visit to a physiotherapist or a naturopath is covered by most extended health insurance policies. Yet, a lactation consultant appointment is generally not insurable. In fact, the province of Ontario doesn’t even recognize lactation consultants as regulated allied health professionals. The list of reasons why moms don’t succeed at their breastfeeding goals goes on and on and on while the list of studies that conclude “breast is beast” grows ever longer.
But the kicker is that the list of studies demonstrating how to most effectively advocate for, support, maintain, and protect breastfeeding is shockingly short. The WHO has published guidelines for how to support breastfeeding, but good studies demonstrating the effectiveness of implementing these guidelines are severely lacking.
As money continues to pile into studies that conclude what we already know, there remain many important and unanswered questions regarding how to best support and advocate for breastfeeding.
This should really change yesterday.