Breastfeeding. Do it or don’t, either way you are doomed. I don’t think I have ever managed more than a week of serious perusal of psychological journals and modern (and not so modern) parenting magazines and books without stumbling across someone with a strong opinion on the subject. Even my father, who has never had to personally deal with the topic nor has had any constant contact with small children for 19 years now, has an opinion.

Every side is quick to whip out research and studies and counter studies and argue until they are blue in the face. Apparently, the newest trend is that breastfeeding helps the mother’s health even decades down the line. The problem with any study on breastfeeding is that it is inherently flawed. You cannot force a mother to randomly breastfeed or not – it will always be her choice. Because of this, other factors begin to influence the outcome. And as recent xkcd comic said – correlation does not cause causation.

For a breastfeeding study’s results to have any meaning, the scientists have to take into account the mother’s health history and risks, socio-economic standing, working status, family history, and a host of other factors. A mother with a high socio-economic standing is far more likely to breastfeed – and she is more likely to have a higher level of health care. So which factor actually caused her increased health? Without in depth research, it is hard to say.

Advertisements