Prime crap from the Daily Mail The comments are worth reading too. Lisa
Breast is NOT best: Mother’s milk no better than baby formula, scientists claim
By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 5:34 PM on 06th January 2010
Women should forget what they have been told about the health benefits of breastfeeding, it was claimed today.
A controversial new study has concluded that, contrary to the view of many experts, breast is not necessarily best for children in the first months of life.
Professor Sven Carlsen, who led the Norwegian team, declared: ‘Baby formula is as good as breast milk.’
What really affects the health of a growing infant is the hormone balance in the womb before birth, according to the research.
This in turn influences a woman’s ability to breast feed, resulting in a misleading association between breastfeeding and child health, it is claimed.
The only benefit from breastfeeding supported by genuine evidence is a ‘small IQ advantage’, said the scientists.
And even this was yet to be properly confirmed.
Prof Carlsen’s team reviewed data from more than 50 international studies looking at the relationship between breastfeeding and health.
Most concluded that the more children were breastfed, the healthier they were.
On the surface this was correct, said Prof Carlsen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim.
But he added: ‘Even if this is statistically true, it is not because of breastfeeding itself. There are very few studies that have examined the underlying controls on breastfeeding ability.’
The largest study on breastfeeding was conducted in Belarus and involved more than 17,000 women and children who were monitored for six years.
It ‘cut the legs out from underneath most of the assertions that breastfeeding has health benefits’ said the scientists.
For example, the study found no evidence that breastfeeding reduced the risk of asthma and allergies in children.
Mental ability was the only area where a small benefit was seen.
‘It appears that children who are breastfed have a small IQ advantage,’ said Prof Carlsen.
‘But this needs to be confirmed in new, carefully planned and conducted studies.’
The Norwegian scientists’ own work pointed to links between levels of androgen male hormones in the wombs of pregnant women, the health of children, and breastfeeding.
‘Pregnant women who have higher levels of androgens breastfeed less,’ said Prof Carlsen.
‘Probably this is a direct effect of hormones that simply limit nursing ability by reducing milk production in the breast.’
A pregnant woman’s health affected hormones in her womb, which had knock-on effects on her unborn child, said the researchers.
Normally a certain amount of the androgen testosterone is converted to the female hormone oestrogen in the placenta, the vital organ that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the foetus and links mother and child.
This is an energy-intensive process, said Prof Carlsen. If the placenta is underpowered, some of the testosterone that should be converted remains unchanged and has an impact on both the unborn baby and its mother.
For the mother, this leads to reduced development of glandular tissue in the breasts so her ability to make milk is impaired.
Adverse effects on the child are believed to include an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and the hormonal disorder polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in girls.
Breastfeeding is less common in younger women, smokers, women who have had the pregnancy condition pre-eclampsia, women who have low-birth weight or premature babies, women with PCOS, and when the child is a boy.
A number of misguided theories have been put forward to explain why these groups avoid breastfeeding, say the researchers. One claim is that the bond between a mother and her child is not as strong when the baby is a boy.
‘This is purest nonsense,’ said Prof Carlsen.
‘Boys are not less loved by their mothers than girls. We can blame biology here, not mothers. All these relationships can be explained by one and the same cause, namely the level of male hormones during pregnancy.
‘We find it very interesting that almost all of the factors previously shown to be associated with breastfeeding can be explained by changes in testosterone levels in the mother during pregnancy.’
He said it was wrong to pillory women who find it difficult to breastfeed.
Women who bottle fed their babies should not worry that they are doing anything wrong, and should not be intimidated by politically correct messages, he added.
‘Don’t let overzealous health professionals give you a guilty conscience,’ said Prof Carlsen.
‘There are many good reasons to breastfeed. But concern for the child’s health is not one of them. There is no reason why women who are struggling to breastfeed should have to go around feeling guilty, or think that they are giving their child a poor start in life if they can’t nurse. Baby formula is as good as breast milk.’
The strongest argument for encouraging mothers to breastfeed was environmental, said Prof Carlsen.
Breastfeeding avoided the environmental costs of producing bottles and infant formula, and the energy consumed sterilising bottles.
Nursing babies at the breast was also the right approach for developing countries, where economics, hygiene and lack of natural resources made breastfeeding the better option.
The research is published in the January edition of the journal Acta Obstestricia and Gynecologia Scandinavica.