Breastfeeding researchers ignore WOMEN in favor of their preferred narrative

Breastfeeding research is a complete and utter joke.

Why? Because breastfeeding researchers ignore their OWN findings.

Case in point: An exploration of pregnant women and mothers’ attitudes, perceptions and experiences of formula feeding and formula marketing, and the factors that influence decision-making about infant feeding in South Africa.

Breastfeeding researchers set out to show that formula marketing has a major impact on maternal feeding choice yet found that marketing had NO impact. Despite the fact that their own data did not support their hypothesis they proceeded to recommend CONTINUED restriction of formula marketing.

To my mind the worst part is not that they ignored the scientific evidence that they collected; the worst part is that they completely ignored the WOMEN they interviewed.

The authors conducted focus groups of South African women to determine why women formula feed.

Here’s what they found … and then ignored.

1. The overwhelming majority of women plan to breastfeed:

Most women planned to initiate breastfeeding, even if it was for a short period, and very few women reported that they had intended to formula feed from birth. Even in groups where mothers were selected based on formula feeding from birth, many of the mothers had planned to breastfeed but were unable to do so.

2. Women are cognizant that most healthcare professionals believe breast is best:

Women in all groups reported that they were encouraged to breastfeed by health professionals in both the private and public sector, particularly during pregnancy. Women indicated that the strong message was always ‘breast is best’ and that the benefits of breastfeeding were the primary reason for planning to breastfeed.

3. Women stop breastfeeding because it isn’t working:

Despite initially planning to breastfeed, many women made the decision to add formula or stop breastfeeding in the days, weeks and months after delivery, most often because they experienced challenges with breastfeeding…

Once breastfeeding was initiated, breastfeeding challenges continued to be the main reason for starting formula, including pain while breastfeeding, perceived insufficient milk and inadequate weight gain.

4. Women experience relief when they add or switch to formula:

It was common for women with breastfeeding challenges to report relief that when they added formula the struggles with breastfeeding were resolved. Several women described advantages of starting formula feeding as follows:

R1: You worry less.
R2: They sleep longer.
R3: My favourite one is my husband takes the night feed. I love it.

5. Formula marketing had no impact on the decision to formula feed:

Women often turned to others for advice about feeding. Family members were important in influencing women to start formula feeding, with many women reporting being put under pressure by family members, particularly their mothers and grandmothers, to add formula if the baby appeared hungry or was crying or feeding frequently.

Health practitioners were an important influence on decision making, mothers mentioned lactation specialists, clinic nurses, pharmacy workers and doctors, mainly in the private sector, had advised them to formula feed…

6. Women resent aggressive breastfeeding promotion:

Women usually perceived the method of feeding their baby as being a choice between two comparable options, and some women strongly emphasized that the feeding method should be their choice. Women complained that they were given little or no information about infant formula, and requested more information be provided, suggesting that mothers should be given more of a balanced choice.

7. Women resent restrictions on formula advertising:

A few women expressed anger on being informed that advertising is strictly regulated and formula companies are not allowed to advertise, saying that this made getting information difficult. A number of women mentioned that they felt pressured to breastfeed, and that women who formula fed were looked down on and made to feel like bad mothers.

What did the authors conclude?

Strong, coordinated efforts are required to actively counter the arguments from formula companies that portray formula feeding as a positive lifestyle choice.

The researchers ignored everything women told them in favor of their preferred narrative.

The ugly reality is this:

Breastfeeding promotion is not about babies and it’s not about mothers. It’s a war against formula companies.

Babies and mothers are merely cannon fodder. Apparently that means that their experiences, needs and desires — as well as the scientific evidence — can be ignored.