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Books Bullshit Health

Breastfeeding and making new mums feel like crap

I’ve written before about the way new mums are talked down to by health “professionals” – last week on Radio Scotland the NHS Breastfeeding Co-Ordinator spent an entire programme patronising women who dared suggest that breastfeeding isn’t always possible – and other parents, but Zoe Williams expresses it wonderfully in today’s Guardian:

the case for breastfeeding is not that strong, and it has passed so seamlessly into the book of What’s Best for Baby that it’s often very lazily put. To give an example, there’s a charity called Best Beginnings, which aims to foster breastfeeding confidence, and is endorsed by the Department of Health, the Health Protection Agency, the NHS . . . the full force of nationalised health provision. Its opening statement is, “Did you know babies who aren’t breastfed are five times more likely to end up in hospital with serious tummy bugs? Or that in countries like Australia or Norway, people think breastfeeding is as normal as putting the kettle on?”

Here’s the thing: that figure in the first statement is from the World Health Organisation, which presents it as a global collation of statistics. In other words, this is not comparing two babies from Surbiton. It’s comparing breastfed babies to formula-fed babies from countries where they might not even have an assured water supply or sterilising equipment or electricity, where they might not even have enough formula. It’s an absurd way to propagandise for breastfeeding. If they were flogging a Pot Noodle, they wouldn’t get away with it.

…the statistics showing less asthma, less eczema, less obesity, fewer ear infections: these haven’t been adjusted for social class and environment. It boils down to: “Middle-class babies do better; middle-class babies tend to be breastfed.”

Mums and mums-to-be have a tough enough time without this bullshit.