So there was a report, it was about breastfeeding, we all got enraged. Yes all of us, everyone..or maybe just me. Anyway the point was I was enraged. The report (widely reported in the media) seemed to say that breastfed babies were poor sleepers, miserable, cranky, and generally sadder babies than the chubby bundles of fun that sleep through and giggle like smiling cherubs when fed formula. No wonder there was rage; I’m almost a breastfeeding nazi! (I’m not but once on twitter someone listed me as such, I was sort of proud) anyway….I went off to track down the report itself since none of the media sources, not even the BBC, saw fit to link to it or reference it in anyway. Luckily the NHS website was more forthcoming and even helpfully pointed out the errors with the ‘study’…such as that the ‘study’ was not actually designed to study the difference between breastfed and formula fed babies at all, it was an aside from a larger study and that the study itself had only 300 participants, that the data was all subjective and no backgrounds were obtained for the babies…well go check see for yourselves(and a snippet below), it’s basically a pile of ‘maybes’ and ‘might haves’. No real concrete data at all.
"There are several additional points to make:
- The researchers did not take into account other wider issues that might affect the chosen feeding method, mother/baby interactions and babies’ temperaments, such as whether the mothers were working, time spent with babies and feeding schedules.
- The study relied on mothers to subjectively rate their babies’ temperaments. Such self-completed ratings could be influenced by other things, such as the mothers’ anxiety about breastfeeding.
- The differences in temperament between breastfed and formula-fed babies as rated by the mothers appeared to be small. For example, the emotional instability score was 2.8 in the bottle-fed group and 3.0 in breastfed and mixed-fed babies. It is not possible to say whether these small score differences would have made appreciable differences in the day-to-day temperament of the babies.
- Educational achievement of women who breastfed or mixed-fed their babies was higher, and how this might have influenced their scoring of temperament was not discussed by the authors.
- It is not known whether the current method of feeding at three months represents a consistent pattern since birth or whether there have been changes. For example, a baby described as formula-fed at three months may have only just been switched to formula feeding and may have been exclusively breastfed up until then. Finally, as the researchers point out, this small study of mothers and babies in Cambridge may not be representative of UK mothers and babies generally."
But why were mothers bothered? If a study says that something may not be as good for your baby you won’t do it – you want the best or your baby. Best is a fed baby. A baby that grows and is happy. Breast or formula can do that, but mothers all want the best. This study seemed to imply that breast was actually inferior…or did it? It said that breastfed babies were more restless, formula fed babies slept more. Well I don’t know about you but after a huge meal of heavy to digest food I sleep well too! Often most of the afternoon, so having a belly full of heavy rich food makes you sleep…ok…
And babies that are breastfed cry more. Now this is the thing that made people sit up! Babies that cry are sad! Miserable! Poor little things! But most breastfeeding mums I know feed on demand. The babies need to inform mum when a new helping of grub is in order, and it might not be in four hours because, well it was easy to digest, it went quick and now “I’M HUNGRY!” and then they drink and are not hungry and can get on with being babies..watching the world, growing, communicating (often by crying “I want to touch the thing!” “why is the light bright” “I want a cuddle” “I want to be left alone” “I want a cuddle “I’M HUNGRY AGAIN!” ) so really is the crying bad?
No! babies cry! Breastfed babies may (or may not – it’s a tiny, flawed study) cry more but that may be because they are communicating more! Because they are more awake, because they are not dozing with a tum full of formula!
So is formula bad? Of course not. Lots of babies grow up happily on formula, a mum may not be able to feed, may adopt, may have a tough birth, may have a busy job or a second child that is ill and needs her attention too, there are a million reasons a mum might not breastfeed (one reason I’m not a ‘breastfeeding nazi' and would never say anything to another about her choice unless she asked for advice) but should a woman choose not to breastfeed because of this study? NO! certainly not!
But the sad fact is that thousands of women every year are put off of breastfeeding, and your milk is nearly always the best thing for your baby. The reasons for not breastfeeding are usually fear, fear of exposure, fear of offending people, fear of being verbally abused, fear of not having enough milk, fear of not being able to do it, and an added fear that on top of all that it may be ‘bad’ for the baby is just awful!
Formula is not a poison and may suit you better, but don’t use it ‘to get a quiet night’ my own experience and that of many breastfeeding mums is that if you relax, if you are led by your baby, you can have plenty of sleep with breastfeeding (not all at night it's true!) and will often not get sleep with a formula fed baby…because (guess what) babies are all different. Babies are different and mums are different, babies that sleep may have mums that don’t worry, or mums that fuss more to get things right! who knows!?
You are the mum, you and your baby are a perfect match, and if you can, you should listen to what you, your baby and your family needs, then everyone can relax and be happy. They are only babies such a short time, enjoy them.