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Wednesday, February 14, 2007Hmmm...as a formula fed child that actually WAS voted "most likely to succeed" in high school (Ha! Bet you thought I got "most likely to whip them out in public" or "most likely to get sued by those porkers, didn't ya?) a study that I ran across today makes me wonder just what I might have been capable of had I been breastfed.
Now we all know that breast milk is best and that there are tons of health benefits for the nursing child. Did you know that according to a decades long study conducted on more than 3000 people in the UK, breastfed children are more likely to grow up to be more successful than their parents? In fact, the study claims that breastfed children are 41% more likely to move up a social class than their formula fed counter parts.
The study followed 3182 individuals from infancy to their senior years. (Started in 1937, concluded in 1997.) The study claims that they've accounted for possible discrepancies based on region, household income, food expenditure, childhood height, birth order and number of siblings. The study also says that the longer a child was breastfed, the more likely they were to move up a social class.
Now that may sound like good news, but being ever the skeptic, I've got some issues with this study. As I've written in the past, I firmly believe that there are enough proven health benefits to breastfeeding that we really don't need to go on a crusade to prove (through often shaky "studies") that breastfeeding will keep your child from wetting the bed or will ensure that they grow up to be president.
So my issues with the study?
1.) It started off by following 5000 British children in the late 1930's. Whether or not they were breastfed (and for how long) was self reported by the mothers. In the late 90s, 3182 of the study participants were sent a follow-up survey. Just over half of them (1648) returned the survey. When all was said and done, only 1414 of the participants were able to provide information on social class and income from both their childhood years and their adult years.
In other words, the study not only relies on a very small group of individuals, but it also relies on self-reported data. Anyone that's ever taken a stats class or learned about reading studies will tell you that self-reported data is notoriously inaccurate.
2.) They did not adjust the data based on each individual's education levels. It's not hard to theorize that an individual's education level plays a dramatic role in their ultimate social class placement. In other words, people with higher education tend to get higher paying jobs. Duh.
3.) The study data states that those from the lowest initial classes were 54% more likely to have FAILED to respond to the final call for input and data.
4.) When you dig into the details information from the study you find that while more breastfed individuals moved up a class, there were still more bottle fed individuals than breastfed individuals in the highest class levels. Wouldn't that mean that those against breastfeeding could take this same study and say 32% of bottle fed children ended up in the highest social class while just 26% of the breastfed individuals ended up there? To go even further, 28% of the breastfed individuals ended up in the lowest social class while just 22% of the bottle fed individuals ended up in the lowest social class.
See how this study could be interpreted to mean multiple things?
I can see it now...some anti-breastfeeding mom reads this same study and posts to her blog with something like this...
"See? I told you! Turns out that if you're breastfed, you're more likely to end up in a lower social class! That's why my kids are getting formula!"
I guess I just think that there are enough "real" reasons to breastfeed that we don't need to stretch the findings of a study like this. I mean how many moms that aren't convinced to breastfeed by all the proven health benefits are suddenly going to say "Hey! there's a chance my kid may move up a class if I nurse! Let's get this kid on the boob!"
I'm sorry, but I just don't see it.
Labels: Stats and Studies