Feeding Babies Part Two — The Benefits Of Breastfeeding?

Formula is overhyped to sell more product, but the benefits of breastfeeding may also be oversold

Gideon M-K; Health Nerd


Pictured: The healthiest choice, according to the World Health Organization and most health agencies across the world. Photo by Luiza Braun on Unsplash

Note: this is part two, you can find part one which looks at the dodgy claims of formula manufacturers here.

In part one of this short series, I looked at formula, and we learned that basically every claim made on the packaging of a formula tin was either unproven or disproven. This is a dodgy tactic that the industry uses to get parents to buy more formula, and it’s been a huge problem for years.

But what about breastfeeding? If you look online, the statements made about the benefits of breastfeeding babies seem quite remarkable. The World Health Organization, for example, implies that not only does breastfeeding reduce the risk of infectious diseases, it also improves intelligence, reduces rates of overweight and obessity, and prevents cancer in mothers as well!

Pictured: Magical? Photo by Dave Clubb on Unsplash

If true, this would make breastfeeding the single most beneficial intervention in…well, probably all of medicine. If a short few months of breastfeeding reduces cancer rates and makes children smarter, it would be the most amazing thing that could happen to anyone to improve their health.

However, when you look at the evidence for all of these claims, the benefits don’t appear to be nearly as well-demonstrated as you might’ve heard.

Promoting Breastfeeding

It’s important to clarify right at the start that, as I’ve already noted, breastfeeding is recommended by every expert group that I’m aware of. This piece is definitely not arguing against breastfeeding, and in fact the evidence definitely supports some important benefits for kids who are breastfed as infants.

But the thing is, there are just so many claims made for breastfeeding benefits, and some of them appear to be based on really quite flimsy evidence.