This is in response to “Has breastfeeding been oversold?” 11/26/12 and its reprint entitled “Is breastfeeding oversold?” 1/13/13 by Nara Schoenberg in the Chicago Tribune.
The first time you published Ms. Schoenberg’s piece “Has breastfeeding been oversold?” (11/26/12), I was dismayed at the total want of quality journalism that I have come to expect from Tribune material. I certainly sympathize with her breastfeeding experience. I, too, had a difficult beginning to breastfeeding, and I also had a very negative experience with lactation professionals in the Chicago hospital where I gave birth. Unfortunately, my sympathy ends there, and more unfortunately, you actually re-printed the article!
Ms. Schoenberg references a book written by a political scientist (not a medical or lactation professional, might I add) that attempts to characterize breastfeeding as a nice thing to do, but not really all that important. As her back-up, she cites three studies that show little to no difference between breastfed babies and non-breastfed babies in a few indicators. Big deal. The fact of the matter is that a lot of evidence was also ignored. Not long ago, the Tribune cited a study from Pediatrics that found that if all babies were exclusively breastfed to 6 months, the lives of 911 babies and billions of dollars in health care costs would be saved. The additional claim that breastfeeding holds women back from employment opportunities and advancement is cause for concern, but is also being partially addressed through our new federal health care and employment legislation, though there is still more work to do.
Yes, breastfeeding can be hard, as the author claimed, and women have the right to choose not to do it, but printing and then re-printing an article like this is not only irresponsible; it is insulting to the intelligence of Tribune readers. Your readers expect a level of journalism that is un-biased and based on evidence; not personal experience, agenda, or opinion.
Instead, one might investigate why Chicago’s breastfeeding rate is below the national average. Why is it that a downstate hospital beat out all the Chicago hospitals in becoming Baby-Friendly? Why have Chicago hospitals cut their lactation support to a bare minimum, and why do they have so much trouble weaning off of free formula? The last time I checked, no one gets free anything in a hospital. Why is it that mothers regularly complain that their Chicago-area doctors are giving them advice that completely ignores the AAP protocol for caring for breastfed babies? And why are mothers still getting grief about breastfeeding in public, though they are protected by state law?
More importantly, why are we still arguing about this as if it were just a “mommy-war” issue, and not an issue of gender equity, public health, and the influence of commercial interest?
It baffles me that these are not topics of investigation by a world-class newspaper, replaced instead by something that might keep investors happy, but does nothing for more deeply understanding the issue.