#Everybreastfeedcounts? No, every BABY counts!


Everything wrong with the breastfeeding industry can be summed up in the hashtag #everybreastfeedcounts.

It’s the motto of this week’s celebration of breastfeeding in the UK.

What’s wrong with #everybreastfeedcounts? A look at NHS Lothian’s breastfeeding page reveals the problems.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]It betrays a focus on profit for the industry, not the wellbeing of babies.[/pullquote]

1. Counts for what?

In countries with clean water, the benefits of breastfeeding for term infants amount to 8% fewer colds and 8% fewer episodes of diarrheal illness across the entire population of infants in the first year. That’s the result of exclusive breastfeeding for months. There’s no evidence that this slight benefit even persists beyond the first year.

But the scientific evidence hasn’t stopped Baby Friendly UK from lying about the benefits. The claims that breastfeeding prevents obesity, diabetes and allergies have been debunked multiple times, but Baby Friendly UK insists on trotting out these discredited claims anyway.

2. It isn’t even true!

In order to demonstrate that every breastfeed counts, you would need to show a linear dose-response relationship between breastfeeding and the purported benefits on a granular level and that has never been shown. Moreover, there’s no reason to believe that it could be shown. Such assertions reflect an argument beloved of alternative health advocates that “if some is good, more must be better.”

Consider C-sections. Can you imagine the uproar if obstetrics adopted the motto “every C-section counts”? There’s no question that a minimum C-section rate (19% or higher) is necessary to achieve low perinatal and maternal mortality. But if we double the C-section rate we can’t expect that perinatal and maternal mortality will drop by half. Just because something is good (breastfeeding or C-sections), more of it is not necessarily better.

3. It reflects a belief that process is more important than outcome.

The truth, which ought to be obvious to anyone, is that every BABY counts. Every baby deserves whatever he or she needs to flourish and breast is NOT best for every baby.

The breastfeeding industry likes to claim that breastmilk is the perfect food. In order for breastmilk to be perfect, it would always be present in the perfect amounts, and all babies would be perfectly capable of extracting it from the breast. However, we know that 5-15% of women don’t make enough breastmilk to fully nourish a baby, and some babies have issues like low muscle tone that make it impossible for them to successfully breastfeed.

Go to any kindergarten class, of middle school class, or college class. Can you pick out the children who were breastfed from those that were bottle fed? And if the breastfed children were identified to you, could you tell who was breastfed longer? Of course not because breastfeeding simply isn’t that beneficial.

Look at child health parameters. Over the last 100 years, there have been wide-spread swings in breastfeeding rates from over 95% to a low of 24% (1973) back up to over 75% today. Despite these wide swings there has been no effect on infant mortality, life expectancy or IQ.

4. It betrays a focus on profit for the industry, not the wellbeing of babies.

The industry profits when it sells goods and services that aid breastfeeding. It does not profit from babies who are bottlefed so it has adopted a relentless focus on marketing breastfeeding itself, not on outcomes.

It’s no different from the oil industry that tries to convince everyone to heat their home with oil and not switch to natural gas, which is often cheaper and cleaner. The oil industry does not care what is better for you, your home and your environment. If it were it would acknowledge that natural gas is a better choice for some people, but to do that would undermine profits and profits come first.

5. It utterly ignores women’s fundamental right to control their own bodies.

The claim that every breastfeed counts isn’t merely untrue, but it is an ugly attempt at emotionally manipulating women into using their bodies in the industry approved way. Not every woman wants to breastfeed and the proven benefits of breastfeeding are so trivial that there is no reason to pressure or manipulate women into doing so.

The bottom line is that #everybreastfeedcounts is a marketing slogan not supported by the scientific evidence. The truth, though less profitable for the breastfeeding industry, is that every BABY counts and every MOTHER counts. If we truly care about babies and mothers we will stop crude efforts at emotional manipulation and promote an alternative motto:

HER baby, HER body, HER breasts, HER choice!