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Breastfeeding Versus Formula Feeding
Nearly 20 studies conducted since the late 1980s have identified negative effects of formula feeding or positive effects of breast-feeding. In this body of research, breastfeeding emerges as a clear winner over formula feeding.
The World Health Organization helps protect breast-feeding with a code that regulates the marketing of milk substitutes. As reported in the British Medical Journal, however, widespread violations of the code have been reported by several health agencies. The author notes that the resulting use of commercial preparations is associated with much harm. Bottlefed babies have significantly higher rates of childhood diseases and impaired cognitive development; they also have a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases as adults.12
Many of the studies that follow bear out this potential for harm. The research shows that bottle-fed babies have an increased risk of neurological dysfunction, diarrhea, middle ear infections, and respiratory infections, as well as allergic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes later in life.13-20
On a positive note, other studies show that breast-fed infants not only have lower rates of infection and gastrointestinal illnesses21-22 but also demonstrate higher (and long-lasting) levels of cognitive development. A recent study in Pediatrics states that children who were breast-fed as infants had significantly higher IQs and scholastic performances at every point they were tested—from first grade through high school.23
The results of this study show that women who receive informational material publicizing infant formulas at their first prenatal visit are almost 6 times as likely to interrupt breastfeeding before leaving the hospital, compared to women who receive research material promoting the benefits of breast-feeding. Women exposed to company-produced advertisement material are also almost twice as likely to cease breastfeeding before 2 weeks compared to those who receive research material. Babies who are breast-fed have improved health outcomes such as lower rates of infections, allergies and chronic diseases, compared to formula-fed babies. The authors emphasize that information material produced by formula manufacturers should not appear in doctors’ offices, prenatal clinics and hospitals, especially considering that the World Health Organization’s code regulating marketing of milk formulas “prohibits the distribution of free samples, the promotion of formula in health care facilities, and the use of pictures idealizing artificial feeding.”
—Howard C, Howard F, Lawrence R, Andresen E, DeBlieck E, Weitzman M, Office prenatal formula advertising and its effect on breast-feeding patterns. Obstet Gynecol 2000 Feb; 95(2):296-303.
The results of this study show that women who, upon delivery, received a hospital discharge package containing a manual breast pump, continued to breast-feed their baby significantly longer (4.2 weeks) than women who received a hospital discharge package containing an infant formula (2.8 weeks). Furthermore, women who felt that relief from nighttime feeding was important, were significantly more likely to breast-feed for more than 8 weeks if they received in the package the manual breast pump instead of the infant formula.
—Dungy CI, Christensen-Szalanski J, Losch M, Russell D, Effect of discharge samples on duration of breast-feeding. Pediatrics 1992 Aug; 90 (2 Pt 1) :233-7.