The case for breastfeeding has long been a controversial one. Given to formula feeding for largely work-related reasons, mothers are made to weigh benefits of breastfeeding against formula feeding. The breastfeeding / formula feeding dichotomy rests on confirmed benefits of breastfeeding as opposed to lack of proper research supporting such benefits. If anything, defenders argue for formula feeding based on practicalities for working women but also for, allegedly, lack of proper scientific evidence on benefits of breastfeeding. On flipside, a growing body of literature is accumulating evidence to confirmed benefits of breastfeeding. This evidence does not only rest on mere physiological benefits but also on psychological ones. Moreover, breastfeeding is a historical mode of nursing infants which, in addition to accumulating scientific evidence of benefits, is adopted for different community practices. This essay aims, hence, to argue for breastfeeding as best nursing option for infants.
The case for health benefits of breastfeeding are confirmed in a growing body of literature. Notably, breastfeeding is shown to protect against acute illness, offer long-term health protection, establish a healthy mother-infant psychological relationship and, not least, to save on healthcare costs (Lawrence). These benefits are, if anything, apt to buffer against long range health complications, not particularly caused by formula feeding, but to offer physical and psychological growth ingredients necessary for an infant's development. On flipside, opting not to breastfeed is shown to subject infants to increased incidence of infectious morbidity, more risks of childhood obesity, diabetes, leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome (Stuebe). Moreover, opting out of breastfeeding subjects mothers to increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, diabetes, myocardial infarction, and metabolic syndrome (Stuebe). These findings are proven across different age groups, income brackets and geographical spread.
In contrast, defenders of formula feeding oppose breastfeeding based on erroneous refutation of scientific evidence. Notably, breastfeeding is rejected based on lack of proper outcomes and conflicting scientific evidence. Specifically, breastfeeding is rebuffed by formula supporters based on grounds of hype and women domestication (Rosin). By emphasizing breastfeeding as most ideal nursing option for mothers and infants by obstetricians is, according to formula feeding defenders, nothing more than hype and is of little, if any, proven evidence in actual performance settings, particularly in classrooms (Rosin). This argument dismissing breastfeeding scientific evidence as unconfirmed is at best refutable by many accounts.
First, in denying benefits of breastfeeding based on confirmed scientific research, defenders of formula feeding (and/or, for that matter, deniers of breastfeeding benefits) fail to offer alternative benefits for formula feeding and, not least, scientific harms, if any, of breastfeeding as opposed to benefits of formula feeding. In a nutshell, rebuffing breastfeeding scientific research as unconfirmed is not countered by alternative, scientific evidence of formula feeding as beneficial or at least of decided harmful effects of breastfeeding.
Second, breastfeeding is rebuffed as a paternal prescription by obstetricians for mothers and infants to adopt a specific nursing option (Rosin). If obstetricians cannot offer a medical opinion for patients, who can? True, feminism movement has a long hostile history against "expert" opinion, particularly paternalistic one. Still, how can a mother (particularly a new one) decide her best health interest? Mothers do understand – gradually – an infant's needs. However, only qualified personnel can decide, collaboratively, on a health issue. Or else, why do not pregnant women do away with gynecologists altogether based on a reasoning that women know best?
Third, breastfeeding is rebuffed based on practicality justifications. That is, formula feeding is necessary for working women. Admittedly, women are becoming an increasingly growing force at workplace. This growth in women population at workplace is, ironically, a one and same reason for permitting breastfeeding as best nursing option. Specifically, as numbers of women continue to grow in different work contexts, further workplace policies and broader legal frameworks are being adopted for working women. There are, indeed, a growing number of countries and organizations catering for working women's motherly needs in different forms including, for example, extended mother leaves and more accommodating workspace layout and design. True, women have a long way to go in order to assert a broad range of workplace rights. However, recent developments attest to more women empowerment at workplace.
Fourth, anti-breastfeeding arguments fail to account for cultural differences. If anything, opting to breastfeed or not is usually a North-American and West European argument. Admittedly, a number of underdeveloped countries, in which numbers of working women are rising, is adopting formula feeding as a practicality. However, a host of local cultures world over still adopt breastfeeding as a symbolic nursing practice fulfilling not only an infant's nutrition needs but also a whole family sense of bondage and nurture.
Lawrence, Ruth A. "Breastfeeding: benefits, risks and alternatives." Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology 12.6 (2000): 519-524. Wolters Kluwer Health. Web. 24 January 2016.
Rosin, Hanna. "The Case Against Breast-Feeding." The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, April 2009. Web. . 24 January 2016.
Stuebe, Alison. "The Risks of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers and Infants." Reviews in Obstetrics & Gynecology 2.4 (2009): 222–231. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web. 24 January 2016.