Tat for Teat, or Baby Formula Not So Bad Really

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Last week, the NY Times ran a story titled "Breast-Feed or Else," which, among other things, compared raising babies with formula to smoking. The indispensable bullshit detector otherwise known as STATS has produced a through debunking of the Times' story.

We found that a lot of those who advocate breast-feeding are relying on voodoo science; it may not have a harmful affect for most women, but it could negatively impact those who would otherwise prefer not to nurse for an assortment of reasons.

Read the whole STATS piece here.

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  1. My wife and I discussed that NYT article a lot in the past few days. She just never produced enough milk to breastfeed. However, at the hospital and even now (my daughter is eight months) various ‘good intentioned’ friends and lactation nazis act like the fact she isn’t breast feeding is akin to beating our daughter.

  2. I see Reason is bringing the same level of intellectual honesty to the science of breast feeding that it brings to global warming.

    Great, you’ve found an institute at a highly politicized college that contradicts the findings of hundreds of peer-reviewed articles published over the course of a couple decades.

    Voila, instant scientific debate. Just add cash, and spin.

  3. My mom smoked when she was carrying me, she smoked after I was born, and she fed me formula instead of breast milk. . . how the hell am I still alive?

  4. Well, you could claim this is similiar to the global warming debate in some sort of Bjorn Lomborg Skeptical Environmentalist sense I suppose.

  5. Good question, Jennifer.

    *peers suspiciously at her*

    You are awfully pale in pictures.

  6. There are certain groups that are quite Nazi like in their promotion of breastfeeding as “the only way.” La Leche Leagure comes to mind.

    I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that points out baby formula is nothing new and societies have always had alternatives to breast milk. People just get cranky now because we mass produce it.

  7. ATR,

    That, and it surely contains HFCS.

  8. Calm down, joe. Did you actually read the article, or did you just see “George Mason University” and smugly assumed that it was biased?

    BTW, politicized or not, George Mason University is considered to be a top-tier school.

    From my reading the gist of the article is “Yes, breastfeeding overall is good, but in some cases bottle-feeding might be better” and “Bottle-feeding isn’t equivalent to smoking”. That’s hardly denying the benefits of breast-feeding; rather it’s a simple recognition that not every woman can breast feed.

    I don’t think the authors of the article or anyone here at H&R disputes the utility and healthful aspects of breast-feeding. What we dispute is the Puritainical idea that ONLY breast-feeding is good for children and ANYTHING ELSE is tantamount to child abuse.

  9. I see joe’s bringing the same level of intellectual rigor to this discussion as he does to property-rights discussions…

  10. I’m glad you’re sticking up for the tits, joe. Somebody needs to.

  11. Next joe will explain that breast feeding should be compulsory. Since some mothers either can’t produce enough milk, or simply can’t afford it, all babies have a right to suck on the public tit.

  12. mmmm, public tits.

  13. I have news for these so called “do gooders”. Not all women want to breast feed. Not all women want to be the only parent getting up in the middle of the night. Not all women want bloody nipples.

    Years ago I worked for a company that encouraged women in the workplace to openly breastfeed. One of the managers had a meeting with an male accountant. During the meeting she opened up her shirt, whipped out her breast and started feeding. He was very uncomfortable and offered to set another meeting time. She said there was no need to do that. He said yes there was! I suppose he is a sexist.

    On another occassion I was at a social meeting of women. A women just opened up her shirt and started breastfeeding. The child was 5 years old!!

    I was not breastfed and my mother still talks about the LeLeche League trying to get her to breastfeed–till I was 10 years old.

    What is worse is that the medical community is making it seem like all women should breastfeed. No they shouldnt. In fact, I was in a clinical class where the teacher was promoting HIV positive women to breastfeed. My response to that is–if you child has fewer colds (which hasnt been proven) what will it matter if they are dead??

  14. I read both fucking articles. (Yes, it is a slow day at the office.) The Times article, while hardly perfect (because we are talking the New York Times, after all) is the more balanced of the two.

    The Times quotes Suzanne Haynes, senior scientific adviser to the Office on Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services (who obviously doesn’t do grammar) as saying “Just like it’s risky to smoke during pregnancy, it’s risky not to breast-feed after.” According to the hyper-ventilating eggheads at George Mason, “the Times effectively told parents that giving their babies formula is tantamount to letting them smoke.” Sorry, kids, that’s not what the Times “effectively” said. What did you specialize in at grad school, innuendo?

  15. Sorry, kids, that’s not what the Times “effectively” said.

    Yes, it is. When a story starts with the header “Warning: Public health officials have determined that not breast-feeding may be hazardous to your baby’s health,” includes quotes like “JUST LIKE it’s risky to smoke during pregnancy, it’s risky to not breast-feed after,” does NOT include any quotes refuting this claim, and discusses the pro-formula side only in terms like “gee, it’s hard to find employers willing to work with nursing women,” then it’s not inaccurate to say this story was biased.

    Even if it didn’t have the word “Editorial” at the top of the page.

  16. Come on, Alan. Read the statement again:

    “Just like it’s risky to smoke during pregnancy, it’s risky not to breast-feed after.”

    You know darn well the average person is going to read that and naturally assume that the risks of smoking during pregnancy are equivalent to the risks of not breast-feeding afterwards. Ms. Haynes either misspoke or she actually believes the two are equivalent.

    A better way of saying it would be “Just as it’s risky to not eat a balanced diet during pregnancy, it’s risky not to breast-feed afterwards” since the point is to make sure babies get the proper nutrition both in and outside the womb. Such a comparison wouldn’t bother me because it would be comparing apples to apples.

    But comparing the risks of pre-natal smoking with post-natal formula use? Even allowing for hyperbole, they’re not anywhere close to being the same.

  17. Just as it’s risky to ride a motorcycle drunk through a radioactive waste dump with no helmet on, smoking crack during pregnancy, it’s risky not to breast-feed afterwards.

  18. tan?ta?mount

    Equivalent in effect or value

    Making an analogy doesn’t mean everything about the two citations are the same. I don’t think either the passage quoted by Alan Vanneman nor the headline quoted by Jennifer (I didn’t read either article myself) would tell the careful reader that not breast feeding is as bad as smoking during pregnancy (much less letting babies smoke!), but OTOH, the analogy does seem to reflect a desire to make the practice taboo, which it may not need to be.

  19. hey jen, read the quote again – alan is right and you are wrong.

    here’s a hint – they are talking about risks to the baby… smoking during pregnacy and not breast-feeding are about equivalently bad for the child. the never said anything about letting your kids smoke.

    Man, you really need to take a reading comprehension class…

  20. hey jen, read the quote again – alan is right and you are wrong. here’s a hint – they are talking about risks to the baby… smoking during pregnacy and not breast-feeding are about equivalently bad for the child.

    How, exactly, does this comment contradict when I wrote that the article is, indeed, equating not breast-feeding with smoking during pregnancy?

  21. ALAN: The article does not say that smoking is as bad as not breast-feeding.

    JENNIFER: Yes, it does.

    LEMUR: No it doesn’t; it says that in terms of risks to the baby, smoking and not-breast-feeding are equivalent. Work on your reading comprehension, Jennifer.

  22. Gee, I sure hope that breast fondling is still okay.

  23. here’s a hint – they are talking about risks to the baby… smoking during pregnacy and not breast-feeding are about equivalently bad for the child. the never said anything about letting your kids smoke.

    Sigh. No, they’re not. They’re not even close. Smoking during pregnancy is very hazardous to both the mother and the baby. Using formula afterwards is not.

    Now, all things considered, is breast feeding better for babies than bottle feeding? Of course it is. Is it the same as smoking during pregnancy? Not even half as bad.

    Indeed, which baby would be healthier: A breast-fed baby whose mother smoked like a chimney, or a bottle-fed one whose mother didn’t smoke? I know which one I’d choose.

  24. Sure, we can all make up our own reality, like Jennifer, or we can choose to live in a world of facts. Contrary to Jennifer’s fantasy, here are some actual quotes:

    ALAN: According to the hyper-ventilating eggheads at George Mason, “the Times effectively told parents that giving their babies formula is tantamount to letting them smoke.” Sorry, kids, that’s not what the Times “effectively” said.

    JENNIFER: Yes, it is.

    Notice – “tantamount to LETTING THEM SMOKE”

  25. The NYT article reveals that Senator Harkin is considering sponsoring legislation to put cigarette-style warning labels on cans of formula.

    But no one’s insinuating that cigarette smoking and bottle-feeding are the same, are they?

  26. and, hey jenny – it’s not really a smart move to lie about what people said FIVE FREAKIN’ POSTS AGO.

    Then again, maybe you don’t realize you’re lying. I suppose you really could be that delusional…

  27. Our famous daughter, Amy, was raised on formula.
    Her teeth are bright. Her coat is shiny.

  28. I agree with Jennifer. As a women, the implication is that if you bottle feed your child you are deliberatly puttting your child at risk. The implication is that it is the same as giving your child a smoke. The implication is also that it is child abuse.

    And requiring warnings on cans of forumula (just like packs of cigarettes) makes the connection even greater in the minds of “joe public”.

  29. i’m going to be quiet as a titmouse on this one.

  30. Back in the day weren?t kids left on the streets at age 3 and forced to either be wise-mouthed newspaper sellers or little rascals? Didn?t city milk importers put chalk in milk in the 1910s and 1920s? Weren?t hot lunches provided by schools at the public?s expense unknown in the 1950s? If scientifically tested and developed formula is ?risky? how on earth did our race even survive until the 21st century?

    I don?t mind if someone is so risk adverse that they never leave their plastic bubbles, but why do they want to force everyone to be the same way?

    I think the libertarian party is going about things the wrong way. They should push through laws that force everyone to own and use a gun weekly, force everyone to smoke weed, and force everyone to ride a motorcycle without a helmet a couple of times a year. Once they?ve done these things a few times the public will shout down anyone who wants to take these things away from them!

    Especially if we can force them to do all three at once!!! Yahoo!!!

  31. These experts go thru phases. When my mom was born (1943) the newest thing was that babies should be fed formula from a cup on day one.

    So my grandmother (taking the advice of the “professionals”) did just that. She fed my mom from a cup. Can you imagine doing that??

    Of course the side effect was frustration for my grandmother, my grandfather, and my mom (who barely was getting a drop).

  32. actually, now i have to:

    “A two-year national breast-feeding awareness campaign that culminated this spring ran television announcements showing a pregnant woman clutching her belly as she was thrown off a mechanical bull during ladies’ night at a bar ? and compared the behavior to failing to breast-feed.

    “You wouldn’t take risks before your baby’s born,” the advertisement says. “Why start after?””

    holy fucking shit. that’s either the best or worst thing i’ve ever read.

  33. Please people, read carefully: the authors (three different universities btw – all noted scholars) looked at the studies cited by the AAP to back the claims for this new campaign. And the actual data in these studies didn’t support the AAP’s claims.

    The Times failure to spot these problems simply turned the paper into a megaphone for a dubious public health campaign.

    The scandal here is the AAP’s lack of rigor.

  34. Focusing on semantics is easier than focusing on reality, I suppose. Regardless, I’m amazed that the New York Times, with all its high-sounding commitment to women’s rights and other such wonderful things, is publishing such a bullshit article that will only cause misery for the mothers who believe it.

  35. Dhex,

    That is almost as good as “a diamond is forever”.

  36. These experts go thru phases. When my mom was born (1943) the newest thing was that babies should be fed formula from a cup on day one.

    I seem to recall reading that in the 1920s, the fad was not only formula, but formula fed according to rigorous schedules. Meanwhile, in the “hooray for housewifery and motherhood” 1950s the fad was breast-feeding.

    So let’s look at the evidence:

    Formula-fed babies: the Greatest Generation. Won World War Two and then ushered in an era of unprecedented peacetime prosperity.

    Breast-fed babies: the Baby Boomers. Lost Vietnam and then turned the country into Yuppie Hell.

    I think it’s obvious which form of baby food is best for the country.

  37. I did a bit of an intersting search of pro breastfeeding propaganda and found:

    A poster of a baby crying with dollar bills floating around him that said “formula for disaster”

    A poster on a darkened background with the warning “no bottles for newborns”

    and of course the claims that not only will your child never ever get sick, they wont have ADD or any other health problems, and the woman will never have bone loss!

  38. These experts go thru phases. When my mom was born (1943) the newest thing was that babies should be fed formula from a cup on day one.

    I am SHOCKED that women in their twenties could be taken in by fads for over a century.

  39. A teat is a Pez dispenser: far more fascinating than what it dispenses.

    Hubba hubba!

  40. Babies…

    Take Tat!

    (More detailed instructions to follow.)

  41. “I’m glad you’re sticking up for the tits, joe. Somebody needs to.”

    Mr. Nice Guy,
    Are you implying tits can’t stick up by themselves?

    (Excuse me for coming in late here.)
    That will probably be about it for me.
    Thank you.

  42. After the judges went to the scorecards……the winner is…..Jennifer, with a unanimous decision over Lemur.

    ok, its settled.

  43. This is your baby.
    This is your baby on TAT.

  44. Am I on the right thread? The one about the Supreme Court’s “No Knockers” ruling?

  45. Target is selling – or was selling, as recently as May – baby shirts that have the phrase “formula for success” on them, along with a picture of a bottle.

    The shirt wasn’t about formula, really, it just used the word as a stupid pun. But. It’s very existence has still absolutely OUTRAGED the boob-feeding communities, especially since most of them shop at Target as an alternative to evil Wal-Mart.

    They’ve reacted by going into their local Target stores, finding the shirts, and stuffing them in a corner somewhere so that nobody will buy them. At the height of the controversy, some women were doing this several times a week. They’ve also reacted by holding “nurse-ins” at Target locations. You know, because showing the stock boy a little tit is surely going to bring the Target corporate office to its knees.

    It just blows my mind. I’m fine with people not buying the shirt, and even boycotting Target if they feel that strongly about it. Economic autonomy and all that. But how in the WORLD does preventing other women from seeing the shirt hanging on the rack help end the “scourge” of formula feeding?

    I’m actually going to breastfeed my kid, because what the hell, it’s free. But the boob partisans piss me right off. They apparently think women are so fragile, so dumb, and so incapable of making a decision that just seeing a frigging Target t-shirt on a rack will sway us all over to formula. I really resent that assault on my intelligence.

    Many boob nazis (they actually use that term, they think they’ve co-opted it) also advocate for the distribution of formula on a prescription-only basis. It almost makes me want to formula feed out of spite.

  46. Damn, Sally, there is a wierdo for every fetish. Seriously. Do people not have enough to *do*?

  47. Sally, I can believe the Rx thing about formula. There has been talk about OB-GYN’s and Pediatricians not even mentioning bottle feeding as an option and/or refusing to discuss it with a patients.

    There has also been the suggestion that hospitals refuse to feed newborns thus requiring that all mothers breastfeed (at least while they are in the hospital).

  48. As a dude, I have no idea why a woman would want to not breastfeed. Can an owner of a pair of hot hot boobies please enlighten me?

  49. Interesting discussion of whether or not the Times was conflating the risk of smoking during pregnancy with not breastfeeding. There’s only one thing missing: stats on the risks of smoking during pregnancy. So here they are. The STATS.org paper has two statistics by my count, one of which has nothing to do with pregnancy. Why is it called STATS.org?

    Why not poll the babies? Give them a choice between a bottle and a breast. It would be an interesting study, IMHO. I’d bet on the breast winning that one.

    BTW, there is scientific evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer.

    disclaimer: I have six sisters, and some of them are “lactivists.” They all gave birth and breastfed their children. I was breastfed, and I’m pretty sure I liked it.

  50. There is scientific evidence that alot of things reduce your risk of breast cancer. One of them is getting a mammogram every year.

    Are these women really concerned about breast cancer and/or women’s health? No. Otherwise they would also be promoting yearly pap smears and mammograms.

    This is not about health at all–either babies or women. It is all about telling other people what to do.

  51. Captain Holly, you’re comment, “Indeed, which baby would be healthier: A breast-fed baby whose mother smoked like a chimney, or a bottle-fed one whose mother didn’t smoke? I know which one I’d choose.”

    Reveals both your own bias and lack of knowledge. The evidence shows that breastfeeding and smoking is a healthier choice than formula feeding and smoking.

    Breastfeeding IS that much better than formula.

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