Is Breast Milk Healthier?
In an earlier generation, moms didn't breastfeed their babies. It just wasn't in vogue. That's why it took a very brave mom to buck the trend and insist on giving her baby the breast. Those very few moms that insisted on breastfeeding did so because they thought it was a healthier and more sensible source of natural nutrition for their babies.
Then came the breastfeeding revolution and woe to any mother who brought a plastic bottle with a rubber nipple containing manufactured milk anywhere near her infant. Bottle-feeding moms became pariahs. But is breast milk really better for babies? One Norwegian professor feels that it ain't necessarily so.
Professor Sven Carlsen looked into the matter and found that while breastfed babies may be a bit healthier than their bottle-fed counterparts, the milk is not the responsible factor. Carlsen says that an infant's health is predetermined by his circumstances while still in utero. The mother's hormone levels are the key component in the baby's future health, claims Carlsen. "The answer is simple. If a mother is able to breastfeed, and does so, this ability is essentially proof that the baby has already had an optimal life inside the womb," the professor explains.
Still confused? Prof. Carlsen explains that a woman with high levels of male hormones is prevented from providing her developing fetus with the proper flow of nutrients. These hormones not only affect the baby's development, but the mother's later ability to breastfeed her infant, increasing the chances that her baby will be bottle-fed. Carlsen adds, “Pregnant women who have higher levels of androgens breastfeed less ... probably, this is a direct effect of hormones that simply limit nursing ability, by reducing milk production in the breast.”
Carlsen's study took place at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim and studied data from over 50 studies that looked at the connection between breastfeeding and a baby's health. The research turned up no proof to support the common contention that breastfeeding prevents both allergies and asthma in children. In fact, the professor says that the only benefit that found support with real evidence is a very small advantage in level of intelligence in babies that are breastfed.
Not everyone is ready to accept Carlsen's study results. For instance, a spokesman for the UK government's Department of Health issued the following statement, "The Government recognizes that breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. It gives health benefits for both the baby and the mother—even after they are no longer breastfeeding. Our advice is based on World Health Organization guidance which recommends exclusive breastfeeding through its report Optimal Duration of Exclusive Breastfeeding and this is backed up by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition in this country.
The British government continues to encourage and support ... mothers to initiate and continue breastfeeding," added the spokesman.