We here in Boogieville love science; there’s few things we like better than learning a show-stopping scientific fact that makes you whistle Wow!, and we even love science despite the fact that it’s subject to the same gender bias as everything else. Never, ever believe the crap that science is ‘objective’. Some of it, sure (possibly) can be, but from the fact that the vast majority of scientists are men, through to the fact that scientific results are published in a gender-biased world, the process of science is no more free of stereotypes than anything else. But, ah, we love it so. Even if we need to double-think it like anything else.
And so we were, back in the day, interested to learn of ‘facts’ related to breastfeeding. For any mother making the choice whether to breastfeed or not, information related to whether it was a ‘good idea’ was welcome. Knowledge is power, after all.
But now we’re sick to the back teeth of ‘facts’ about breastfeeding. We categorically do not want to hear of any new studies on the subject. No, we just don’t.
It was this that finally pushed us over the edge. It told us this:
‘A UK study involving 10,000 mothers reports that babies breastfed for four months or more are less likely to have behavioural problems in early childhood.
‘Mothers were asked to assess issues including clinginess, anxiousness, restlessness, lying and stealing in their children up to the age of five.‘
Straight off, we’re finding this problematic. For a start, this isn’t taking babies who’ve never so much as sniffed a breast versus those who’ve had boob stuffed in their mouth for a year, for example. This lack of clarity immediately makes me suspicious that researchers couldn’t find even a hint of anything statistically significant unless they took some arbitrary cut-off point for breast feeding, thus managing to include some partially breastfed babies in the ‘formula’ group…Hmm.
And when exactly did ‘clingyness‘,’ anxiousness‘ and ‘restlessness‘ become ‘behavioural problems‘? Talk about cultural influences! Unbiased? My arse. And ‘lying’? It wasn’t long ago that we were told that the earlier your child starts lying, the more intelligent they are. I quote:
‘[Lying] is a sign that they have reached a new developmental milestone. Those who have better cognitive development lie because they can cover up their tracks.’ This was because they had developed the ability to carry out a complex juggling act which involves keeping the truth at the back of their brains.’
Given this, and the fact that the same study also told us that ‘all toddlers lie’, I’m unclear as to how this could be considered a ‘behavioual problem‘, either. Unless you take this extra line about ‘early’ liars:
‘He added: ‘They even make bankers in later life.’
But I’m not sure that’s fair.
So that leaves us with stealing, which is, I admit, bad but it does carry the bonus of arriving home and discovering all manner of delights hidden down the sides of the pram. Boogie was an habitual tealeaf, but only when she was still too young to understand the concept of property or to have read Engles (she’s only just ploughing through it now…), so that tells us jack shit about jack shit, n’est ce-pas?
And after all this, we get this:
‘Only 6% of breastfed children were found to have behavioural problems, compared with 16% who were formula-fed.’ Which, we can only presume should read ‘Only 6% of long-term breastfed children were found to have behavioural problems, compared with 16% who were formula-fed or breastfed for less than four months.’
But let’s face it, who cares? 6% versus 16%? I’m sorry, my friend, you’re going to have to do better than that. And you’re especially going to have to better than than given all of the following:
‘Maria Quigley, the lead researcher from Oxford University, explained:
‘We just don’t know whether it is because of the constituents in breast milk, or the close interaction with the mum, or whether it is a knock-on effect of reduced illness in breastfed babies.’
There may also be a socio-economic reason. Mothers who breastfeed tend to be older and better educated, which might contribute to fewer problems in the child’s upbringing.’
Or maybe it’s because the babies who started off being breastfed and got switched to formula at four months were completely pissed because formula didn’t taste as nice and, in revenge, formulated a demonic plan to take over the world, the first stage of which was to be ‘restless’? Those pesky four-monthers.
In short, they’ve no fucking clue what caused the difference. So what’s the fucking point? The fucking point, of course, is to keep mothers in a state of constant anxiety. And I’m not having it any more. Just. Stop. It. No more studies about breast v. bottle. I mean it. Any more and I’m going to start getting clingy. There. I’ve warned you.
Because unless they suddenly discover that breast milk is actually poisonous, or formula makes people vote Tory, these studies are only useful for one thing: being rolled up and used to beat mothers around the head. And I’m sick of it.