ABM Responds to The New York Times’ “The Milk Wars”
To the Editor:
RE: “The Milk Wars”, The New York Times, July 14, 2012
In her column “The Milk Wars,” Alissa Quart asserts that exclusive breastfeeding is “a kind of harm-reduction or abatement… part of a collective dream of reducing all danger to nil.” She goes on to suggest that breastfeeding is “less important than advocates claim.”
In fact, breastfeeding is the physiologic way to feed a human infant. When this physiology is disrupted, health risks increase for mother and child. A systematic review of the evidenced based literature has concluded that infants who are formula-fed face increased risks of ear infections, pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections, allergies , malignancies, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome. Mothers who do not breastfeed are more likely to develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
Ms. Quart correctly states that there are multiple societal barriers to breastfeeding, but the solution is not to downplay the importance of normal human physiology. Instead, we must implement public health strategies that address these barriers and lead to support for all mothers and infants. As Dr. Regina Benjamin stated in the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, “the time has come to set forth the important roles and responsibilities of clinicians, employers, communities, researchers, and government leaders and to urge us all to take on a commitment to enable mothers to meet their personal goals for breastfeeding.” The Call to Action is the cornerstone of breastfeeding policy in the United States, and it specifically focuses on removing societal barriers so that mothers can achieve their own breastfeeding goals, not on “mandating” nursing.
In her column, Ms. Quart did not mention the Surgeon General’s Call to Action and instead cited results and opinions from an anecdotal web search to characterize “today’s lactation rhetoric.” Mothers – and readers of the New York Times – deserve better quality research and discussion about health policy. The issues are not one of maternal guilt or life style but rather a basic concern for the well being of mothers and their infants.
Arthur I. Eidelman, MD, President,
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
This letter was submitted to the editor of The New York Times on July 16, 2012
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