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It Turns out Breast-Feeding Isn’t That Great

Photograph by Getty Images

Say "breast-feeding," and you’re in for some unwanted advice, some patronizing nosiness and perhaps even a verbal altercation with someone who either thinks you’re a criminal for not nursing your infant, or you’re a martyr because you did.

A recent study on breast-feeding published in the journal Social Science & Medicine just might put an end to all that hoopla. The study’s findings show that the benefits of breast-feeding may have been exaggerated in previous studies. Why is this study more accurate than previous ones that tout the benefits of the boob?

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Previously, researchers have found where one baby was nursed and the other wasn’t, the one who was nursed faired better, health-wise, overall. But these studies have never taken into account that breast-fed babies tend to come from a higher socioeconomic background. No matter what, those kids were probably going to struggle less and fare better simply because their families had more resources to begin with.

This is the first breast-feeding study where siblings were included in the research. Prior to this, no study has researched the effects of breast-feeding on one sibling with another who was formula-fed. In the long-term, the health of both breast- and formula-fed children was the same, with one exception: Breast-fed babies have a slightly higher rate of asthma.

This study should put an end to some of the controversy and judgment.

So, what's the big deal with this study? Mostly it provides relief for people who, for whatever reason, fed their babies formula while worrying they weren't doing "the best" job. But it's also helpful when you're faced with criticism simply for being a mom trying to do your best.

After all, If you have children, you’ve had conversations about breast-feeding. The UPS man has shared his opinion with you regarding your choice not to breast-feed, and your best friend thinks you’re insane because you do. When you are a mom of an infant, there is no stranger who will deny you the privilege of hearing their opinion on your breasts. Many women struggle with the choice not to nurse having been led to believe their kids will be smarter and healthier if they simply breast-feed. This study should put an end to some of the controversy and judgment that goes along with breast-feeding, or not breast-feeding.

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Now new moms get to make a choice about breast-feeding that suits them without the added pressure of worrying about the long-term effects of breast vs. bottle. It's got to be a huge relief to moms (no matter what they choose) that the data and research prove that no matter how they feed their newborn, that child is going to be OK. Someone go tell the UPS Man, the judge-y lady in baby group and anyone who wants to shame another mom—whether she breast-feeds or not. So, now can we all just get along?

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