I find her tone to be the nasty underbelly of second wave feminism. I think this is something that the third wave has tried to correct: men and women can be different and still be equal. Second wave feminism often sought to eliminate differences in the name of equality, which is ridiculous. Second wave feminism also often prioritized economic equality- and now, that's important, don't get me wrong, but it's not the only thing. Just like the author of this article points out, NOW came out with a statement about how the HHS campaign against formula feeding would place a burden on WOH moms. Even at the time, I found this to be a brain dead statement. I am pro-BF because I am a feminist. It's not an either/or position. And yes, while I want to see paid maternity leave so more women BF for a year, I'll be d@mned if I'm going to use some excuse about our gov't being negligent to whine about how or why I can't do it. If women did that, feminism would have never gotten anywhere.
About the author's science: her grasp of what makes a good study good and how to apply study results is miserable. I have a degree in public health (pursued at full time status while nursing/pumping for an infant, work that I found very meaningful, TYVM), and there is way more to epidemiology than knowing that correlation is not causation.
For me to refute all the psuedo scientific points in this article would take forever, but I'll hit the high points:
-She points out that many of the infant deaths caused by formula feeding are due to tainted water and/or the expense of formula, especially in third world countries, but she seems to think that this does not make the case for breastfeeding. This is patently illogical (and without logic, kids, we'd have no science). What's the baby supposed to eat if not formula or BM? Air? Dirt? Formula or BM is an either or proposition in the first year of life. It's a zero sum game- those who do not BF will FF, and vice versa.
Now, if she were saying that lack of potable water is a problem, and we need to fix that, and it's not an entirely separate problem from infant mortality, okay then. But the fact is, if a mom BFs her child exclusively for 6 months, and continues on for another 18 months, that child has a much better chance of surviving one of the bugs that has tainted the family's water, because s/he's been exposed to the mom's antibodies through BF.
-There is a heckuva lot more going on with the human immune system than cutting edge science can grasp, much less old, flawed science. The author's statement about IGA being the only immunological factor in breastfeeding is just plain wrong.
Also just plain wrong: her statement that IGA just sits in the baby's gut, and never makes it into the bloodstream. I literally laughed aloud when I read that. How does she think stuff gets into the human bloodstream? Fairy dust? Tiny demons? Or does everything have to get there though a needle? All kinds of stuff, good and bad, gets into the bloodstream through the digestive system. The author really reveals her cluelessness (not to mention her editor's) in this one statement.
The transfer of antibodies and other immunological factors is our best hope for fighting diabetes, cancer, lupus, and a ton of other autoimmune problems. Now, the reason that BF'd people have less autoimmune disorders isn't because of a single immunological factor- IGA isn't the magic bullet, neither is IGT or interferon or whatever. Science isn't quite sure what the mechanisms are, but the best guess is that it's no one single thing- it's that BFing sets up the immune system. The baby's immune system learns from the mother's via milk. Just because we haven't figured out the precise mechanisms by which this happens doesn't mean we don't have a good idea, borne out by real epidemiology, what direction we should be looking toward.
-The author takes worldwide statistics and tries to apply them to a specific group of well educated, upper middle class Americans. Epidemiology doesn't work that way. To say, "Oh, I don't live near a Superfund site... therefore, my child probably won't get leukemia... therefore I don't need to breastfeed," is ridiculous. I understand her point that studies about BFed babies and IQ were generally small and flawed, and didn't control for other factors... but the IQ test isn't scientific, in and of itself.
The primary reason to BF is physical health, period.
To discount all studies that indicate the inferiority of FF because the IQ studies are stupid is... well, stupid.
-The major study that indicated that dietary fiber reduces the chances of colon cancer was conducted on U.S. and Ugandan men. Ugandan men eat three to five times the fiber that U.S. men do, on average. Therefore, Ugandan men poop a lot more often. Also, they tend to squat, rather than sit, when pooping, so they poop faster.
Now, I've heard the argument that it's not the fiber that's preventing colon cancer, it's the pooping frequency and speed that's preventing colon cancer. Silly- you aren't going to poop more or faster without more fiber in your diet.
The author's take on BFing studies are basically the same false logic. It's not that U.S. babies who are breastfed are healthier, it's that they come from more priveleged backgrounds. Well, no- U.S. babies from more priveleged backgrounds are more likely to be breastfed. She has it backward, as is proven by all the worldwide studies of people from all sorts of educational and economic situations proving that BFed babies are healthier.
Bottom line: she's a journalist, not a scientist. She's out of her depth, and her conclusions are not based in science- they're based in emotion, and she's tried to twist the science to back up her emotion. It isn't working.