Controversies in Breastfeeding


If you get a chance to attend one of his presentations, don’t miss it! In this slide, Dr. Jack explains that he disagrees strongly with the notion that a baby that has lost 10% of its birthweight needs to be supplemented.

Just in time for the start of World Breastfeeding Week, here is part 4 of my CAPPA re-cap series!

This post is a companion to my CAPPA re-cap post about the impact of birth practices on breastfeeding. Dr. Newman’s keynote session about Controversies in Breastfeeding was actually given before his breakout about birth and breastfeeding, but for the chronological value, it made sense to me to put up the birth post first.

As I already shared, in Newman’s perspective we have a huge problem in that many medical care providers do not recognize the critical importance of breastfeeding. Newman also emphasized that there are many people who don’t know squat about breastfeeding and breastmilk and don’t feel like they need to learn anything before they start doing studies and writing papers about it.

Why is hard to study breastmilk?

Because…there is no such thing as “standard” breastmilk. It is a physiological fluid and varies from person to person. We DO NOT have to prove that breastfeeding is better than formula. Those comparison studies are unnecessary.

Some great stuff from Dr. Newman’s presentation about controversies:

  • The exclusively breastfed, well-gaining 5 month old is getting only, at most, 10-15% more milk than the exclusively breastfeeding, well-gaining 1 month old, even though the 5 month old is twice as heavy. Baby continues to gain weight steadily even though it is not “getting enough” compared to its formula fed counterpart. (put that in your pipe and smoke it–yep, he really then said that ;-D)
  • Colostrum has 100,000-5,000,000 leukocytes per ml–that is more than blood. (i.e. colostrum has more white blood cells in it than your actual blood has in it!)
  • Colostrum and formula are the same in the following ways: both are liquid.
  • Breastmilk does not need to supply vitamin D (makes no sense to describe breastmilk as “deficient in” or “lacking” vitamin D).
  • With regard to the high incidence of reflux being diagnosed in babies—his response to why so high is, “because [most] doctors don’t know anything about breastfeeding.”
  • We learn one thing when we hear that the mother has been told to feed her baby X number of minutes per side—>the person telling her this does not understand breastfeeding.
  • There are no such thing as “flat nipples”–women have normal nipples. We live in a bottle feeding culture that makes us assume that if a mother does not have nipples that stick out like a bottle nipple, the nipples are flat (**Molly’s own note–we also live in a culture where 75-90% of women have epidurals during labor which can contribute to edema in the breast and the accompanying appearance of flat nipples).

 And, there should be no controversy about formula feeding vs. breastfeeding. If you actually look at the biochemistry of breastmilk you would know there is no comparison. No controversy. (with a laugh after this he added, “pediatricians are simple folk” ;-D)

In that plainspoken way I found so refreshing, Dr. Jack also pointed out that formula feeding is missing one more thing: breastfeeding. That’s right. Society thinks that bottle feeding is the “same”–it isn’t. Breastfeeding is an intimate relationship. He also pointed out that, “people will lie, lie, lie to sell products.” (see ad to right)

Finally, he explained that this mechanization of breastfeeding (through things like test weighing and nipple shields and timed feedings) will cause more and more mothers to abandon breastfeeding and then she’ll say, ‘we tried everything and it just didn’t work.’ Yes, we did “try everything,” everything to make her not succeed. (And, then she’ll write an article about it complaining about “what’s wrong with breastfeeding.”)

Handouts from Dr. Newman are available here. One I’ve used recently is How to Know a Health Professional is not Supportive of Breastfeeding.

I address other systemic influences on breastfeeding in Breastfeeding as an Ecofeminist Issue

7 thoughts on “Controversies in Breastfeeding

  1. love this post! So much great information. I recently had a friend navigating the minefield of birthing and breastfeeding in the hospital; it’s sad how difficult this process has become! She was also told (after having fluids and an epidural for 12 hours before giving birth) that her nipples were “too short” and that “her baby wanted a longer nipple”. She still believes this was true, because after 2 painful weeks of nursing (and pumping, and supplementing…) she has still mentioned it to me. I’ve tried to reassure her that her nipples are everything that her baby needs, but it’s hard to erase that doubt once it’s been planted..

    • Thanks for commenting, Sara. You’re right–it is really hard to erase those doubts and what happens is they persist and get passed onto other mothers as part of the overall mythology of breastfeeding. I wish “helpers” would think before they speak, because their words are SO POWERFUL and are received by the mothers as a “diagnosis” or as a prediction and their impact can last for YEARS.

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