ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How That Popular "Breastfeeding Is Overrated" Study Is Being Misunderstood

Updated on September 27, 2016

The Study In Question

If you are a parent, or friends with someone who is, it's likely you've seen (or at least heard about) the recent study that compares breastfed siblings with non-breastfed siblings, and finds no notable differences in their long-term health.

This study has popped up repeatedly on Facebook, Twitter, and parenting forums. It is usually shared by a mother who either had to, or simply chose to formula feed, and it is usually accompanied by a comment exhibiting relief or joy. It seems that those who could not breastfeed take solace in this study, and that is a good thing. There is far too much formula-related guilt in the mommy world.

With that said, the common consensus of "Breastfeeding has no long-term benefits!" is far too hasty and quite frankly, inaccurate.

Unfortunately, when these studies gain media attention, a vast majority of the public are not actually able to read the study itself. It's often a situation where someone would have to pay for a subscription to the journal that the article is published in, and let's be real: not many people are going to want to pay $30+ to read an article. So, the public is exposed to biases when the results are reported, and we are essentially at the whim of the reporter's interpretations.

Most of the articles covering this study boast that breastfeeding is overrated, and to an extent that is not untrue. However, it's a blanket statement, and one that is being misconstrued.

How It's Being Misunderstood

The study does suggest that short-term breastfeeding does not provide notable long-term benefits. You can see why it's an easy jump to saying "breastfeeding has no benefits". However, that is a very different and very exaggerated claim.

First, we must take into consideration the WHO's guidelines regarding breastfeeding. They say: "Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond." Then, take into consideration that the study looked at data from mothers who breastfeed an average of only 23 weeks, and did not differentiate between exclusive breastfeeding and any breastfeeding. Surely, a mother would say they were breastfeeding even if it were only for one feed a day.

It seems likely that the take-away message is not that there are no long-term benefits from breastfeeding, rather that the long-term benefits are related to amount and duration of breastfeeding. One could pretty confidently say that breastfeeding once a day for three weeks won't provide substantial long-term benefits, but that doesn't contradict the WHO guidelines in any way.

The benefits of breastfeeding have not been overrated; they've been misunderstood.

The Motivation Behind Misunderstanding

A lot of the misunderstanding probably comes from being fed sensationalized headlines and bias from reporters who just want to claim something exciting. With all of the "Breast Is Best" swirling around, it certainly does sound like something groundbreaking when someone says it's actually not.

Given the difficulty in accessing the actual study, and the difficultly understanding it for those who haven't been trained to read scientific articles, many people rely heavily on these biased summaries.

People may embrace the exaggerated conclusion because it makes them feel better about their circumstances. Guilt surrounding infant feeding methods is incredibly common and shockingly strong. Some mothers have exhausted every option but been unable to breastfeed. Some mothers have given up in the midst of a growth spurt because the days were just too hard. And some mothers didn't give breastfeeding a second thought, they just gave a bottle and never looked back. Regardless of the reasons, the reminder that "breast is best" can be painful.

Claiming that breastfeeding is overrated might be easing that pain. It might take that feeling of failure away. People may want to cling to the distortion and wear it like a band-aid.

Do you believe the benefits of breastfeeding are overrated?

See results

Why It's Important To Get It Right

As with anything, it's important to try to understand things fully and correctly. Sure, it might feel good to hear that breastfeeding isn't the noticeably superior choice as previously thought. But is it worth ignoring the whole story and the true implications just to feel a bit better?

Will the way someone chooses to feed their infant eclipse all other parenting choices? Certainly not. It is, however, and important decision. It's a decision which requires parents to be equipped with correct information and adequate support, and it is a decision that will potentially affect their child's health for a lifetime - contrary to what people think this study is suggesting.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • peachpurple profile image


      3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      It is important for babies to be breastfed when born

    • Goldia profile image


      4 years ago from Illinois

      Breastfeeding is the best first nourishment for babies. Mothers that can only breastfeed for a short while still provide benefits to their baby.

      I like how you included the content of breastfeeding and looking closely at a study. Very good!

    • Aime F profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thank you, Pandemommium! Cute username. :)

    • Pandemommium profile image

      Hannah & the Runts 

      4 years ago from Wilmington, NC

      Ridiculous. Good article though!

    • Aime F profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Trudeauland (it's like Disneyland but hotter)

      Thank you for your comment, Maggie! I'm glad you found it interesting. I think it's a topic that's always worthy of discussion.

    • Maggie.L profile image


      4 years ago from UK

      An interesting hub! I agree with you that it's important to 'see behind' these studies and look carefully at the data that's been used to come to these conclusions. Thanks for bringing this issue up and sharing.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)