In recent years there's been so much pressure put on women to breastfeed their newborns that there's even a word for it: bressure. The "breast is best" activism and out-and-out shaming of moms who use formula — even those unable to produce enough milk — has given rise to yet another word: lactivists. As this Channel 4 UK piece states, “Some new mothers say the pressure to breastfeed—reinforced by the craze for breastfeeding selfies, or “brelfies”—is making those who feed their children by bottle feel like failures."
And what does all this "bressure" and "lactivism" stem from? A bevy of research. Exclusively breast-fed babies are said to be protected against diseases, infections, allergies, and even have higher IQs as they grow. That is, until now. A new 20-year study has debunked the claim that exclusively breast-fed babies are smarter than their bottle-fed peers.
This is something that hit close to home for us, as our popular real-life show Birth Days demonstrates that raising a newborn is a full-time job filled with countless challenges (dirty diapers, time managment, and yup, breast-feeding issues among 'em!). Check out more about the show and watch clips here, plus find out where you can tune in.
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The Science Behind Breastfeeding vs. Formula-Feeding:
Breastfeeding has a number of undeniable benefits (it’s filled with antibodies that directly benefit newborns, for instance) but there are also certain beliefs and truths that have proven untrue over time. For example, CNN published an article in 2015 linking extensive breastfeeding to higher IQs and income. Two years later, this week a new study says there are no long-term cognitive benefits to breastfeeding, proving that it doesn’t raise anyone’s IQ.
The study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics, and cites data from 8,000 families in Ireland, recording their baby-feeding methods. After a few years, when the Irish children grew to 3 - 5 years-old, researchers collected reports on their behavior problems, vocabulary, and cognitive abilities. The conclusion of the study says that there was no correlation between children who were breastfed and performance in school.
Also on Z Living: 3 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Breastfeeding
Taking The Bressure Off:
Nothing about this study says that breastfeeding isn’t beneficial or worthwhile, but it does take away a major element that can plague mothers who are unable or have reason not to breastfeed.
In the end, less bressure is better, because breastfeeding or bottle feeding is a personal decision for every mother to make, based on her own situation and goals. Bottom line, this informative piece from young-parent support network Babycenter says it best, “Both formula feeding and breastfeeding are valid, healthy choices for your baby.”
It goes on to even say, after talking about the benefits of breastfeeding, that “exclusive formula feeding—either right from the start or after a period of nursing—is also a healthy way to feed your baby. Formula even has some vitamins and other nutrients that breastfed babies have to get from supplements, like Vitamin D.”
So remember: Lay off the bressure. Back off of the lactivism. Bottle-feeding isn't likely to hurt your baby's intelligence levels.