Ahh. I see researchers have a new F-word: formula. An Australian National University study criticized researchers for taking a “Voldemort” approach to naming formula in their studies of infants. Said Dr. Julia Smith:
We looked at the findings of nearly 80 authoritative studies, all of which highlighted that formula-fed babies tend to be at higher risk of poor health than children fed on breast milk.
But where was the mention of formula? Nowhere that mattered, said researchers.
The fact that these less healthy infants were formula-fed was nowhere in the headlines or abstracts. Might I add, as a lady who peruses the children’s health studies, sometimes abstracts are all I can get without registering with online publications, which is costly.
So sometimes abstracts and headlines are all the public has access to.
Rather than mentioning formula feeding as a risk factor, Dr. Smith says, the researchers are simply glossing over the possible correlation. One study example was: “Breastfeeding and necrotising enterocolitis”. (Bless you!)
Dr. Smith and her colleagues aren’t trying to make formula feeders feel guilty. Rather, they think that part of getting more women to breastfeeding is by getting more accurate information out there. Part of that, they say, is getting the word out when infant formula could be one of the factors in infant health problems.
Might I add, as a woman who has used both formula and my own milk, that I receive much more shock, awe, and even dirty looks for breastfeeding my lil guy than I ever did formula feeding my older boy when he quit the breasts. And I’m a discrete public breastfeeder.
This isn’t meant to be one more round of “Beat the Formula Feeder.” I’ve said before that as parents, we’re likely to feel guilty during our kids’ lives. No matter where you go or what you do, Mother of the Year, you’ll be criticized by someone for not parenting properly.
Oh, your son is only 90th percentile? Mine’s 100th. What are you feeding him?
Let’s not make this about guilt, but about accuracy. Kick that “Voldemort effect”. If it were “lollipops” or “oranges” instead of formula, I’m certain we’d see the headlines. As Dr. Smith said,
This is not helping properly informed health professionals and mothers. How can we expect physicians and other health professionals to be informed and convincing about the importance of breastfeeding if they themselves are not getting the facts on risks of formula feeding presented in a prominent and clear fashion?
On a side note: As a writer and as a reader who finished the last two books in the HP series last week (What the?!), I got a great chuckle about the Harry Potterization of this research. Who knew that a “food” could be compared to a fictional evil wizard?
Image: brokinhrt2 on Flickr under a Creative Commons License