The Correct Answer Is Breastfeeding. What’s the Question?

Woman Breastfeeding Her ChildBreastfeeding is such a good idea. But unfortunately, it doesn’t do much to prevent obesity. No matter. On the subject of breastfeeding and preventing obesity in children, we have policy-based evidence – the answer is preset. A new paper in Pediatrics lines up with this.

Based on yet another finding of an association between breastfeeding the BMI of infants, the authors offer “an opportunity for health professionals to protect women who want to breastfeed.” The authors concede “the difficult and entangled nature of assessing causality,” but they know what to recommend. No matter what the question, the correct answer is breastfeeding.

Make-Believe Is Inadequate for Obesity Prevention

The science of obesity has advanced by leaps and bounds. This has made a huge difference in obesity treatment. But it’s having a hard time penetrating the make-believe world of obesity prevention.

The result is a tremendous failure for public health. We have spent decades talking about how important obesity prevention is, but relying on sketchy evidence to guide prevention strategies. Public health messaging about preventing obesity has sent people on guilt trips about their body size.

So now we have more stigma and more obesity. No evidence of obesity prevented.

Breastfeeding Is Good, but Not for Obesity Prevention

Yes, breastfeeding is valuable for the health of infants. But promoting it as an effective way to prevent children from growing up with obesity is dishonest. It undermines the credibility of public health authorities and the confidence of parents who want to make good choices. Good health communication requires trust and trustworthiness.

The truth is that the relationship between breastfeeding and child obesity is entangled by many confounding social and economic factors. The relationship is complex and unproven to be causal.

So why employ dubious rationalizations that compromise both the promotion of breastfeeding and the pursuit of effective obesity prevention? Reducing barriers to breastfeeding is important. Finding effective obesity prevention strategies is also important.

Public health should stop tangling up these two priorities with rationalizations of dubious credibility.

Click here for the study in Pediatrics and here for a recent systematic review in AJCN.

Woman Breastfeeding Her Child, sketch by Jules Breton / WikiArt

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January x, 2024

One Response to “The Correct Answer Is Breastfeeding. What’s the Question?”

  1. January 22, 2024 at 6:42 am, Michael Jones said:

    Unfortunately, agenda-driven “evidence“ has been par for the course for Pediatrics for decades.