Not all breast-feeding is equal

Is breast-feeding worth it;

“Let’s be honest: if the only adverse consequence of not nursing is that babies get a few more colds, we could leave the decision making to the parents. The real question is whether there are dangerous or potentially long-term damaging illnesses (such as ear infections that lead to hearing loss) for babies who aren’t nursed versus babies who are. And how long (or how much) should a baby be nursed in order to keep his or her risk down?

One of the big problems in trying to assess this question is that not all nursing is equal. There are mothers who nurse exclusively, mothers who use expressed breast milk (delivered in bottles), mothers who freeze milk, or use pasteurized (donated) milk, or use some breast milk and some formula, and a combination of all of the above.

Then there are the babies, some of whom are premature, or have low birth weight, or have other health issues that could make nursing harder; there are some babies who are nursed until they are four-years old, and others who nurse until they are six-weeks old.

Finally, we must add a complicating factor that it’s virtually impossible to carry out the gold standard of research on this issue – a randomized controlled study in which mothers are randomly assigned whether to nurse or not. Our observational power may also be limited; at least in principle, because women (and families) who nurse are not the same as those who don’t, making any comparison of the outcomes extremely difficult.”

For a lay person’s guide to how economists think about such issues read, Trade-Offs: An Introduction to Economic Reasoning and Social Issues by Harold Winter.

Here’s a review of the book at Newmark’s Door.

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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on November 10, 2006 10:07 AM.

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