Q: Nadia: I had to give up breastfeeding my two-month old daughter for physical reasons. I feel awful about it. This is my second child and the first time around, I had similar complications with breastfeeding, but I was able to do it for a longer period of time. A lactation specialist helped me, but it didn’t remedy the problem. What is factually, absolutely healthier about breastfeeding? Are there problems that could happen now or later on in life?
A: Dean Edell, M.D. Listen, don’t feel bad. You have me in a little bit of a tough spot here, but I can understand this. Of course breastfeeding is healthier, but most of us, especially my generation, were raised on bottles and we are alive and well.
If your baby is healthy, then everything is fine. The statistics show that babies who are not breastfed have higher rates of many infectious diseases – upper respiratory problems, like ear infections – that happen mostly during the first six months or year of life.
There are other factors. If you are a poor urban mother who is not breastfeeding, your baby would be at a much greater risk than if you have better resources, in terms of time and money, to be able to take care of a child.
So, don’t get paranoid about it. It’s just that when you look at the statistics all over the country, we’re talking about $4 billion in health care savings.
Many women don’t breastfeed. Some women are better at it! , some cannot do it. You tried and came up against physical barriers and that’s fine.
I’ve talked about things like this before, with SIDS and position in sleeping, and vitamin B/folic acid/spinal bifida.
Some women have accused me of blaming them when things happened and wanted me to shut up about the health benefits and the public health message.
There are so many other factors involved, like your genetic heritage, where you live, your lifestyle, what the baby is eating … all of that goes into what determines health. It’s never just one thing.
It sounds like you love your baby, and you know what? That’s the most important thing in the world. You love and care about your baby. Who has checked into the health benefits of that? Believe me, they are major.