Monday, November 12, 2007

Interpreting Research and Studies...Don't believe everything the media tells you.

Last week my local news channel did breastfeeding a major disservice. They ran a story that was a clip lasting less than 5 seconds, showing bf mom footage, and the news story voice over was saying that in breastfeeding moms with asthma, "Studies show that their babies have decreased lung capacity".I immediately contacted the news room at News 12 and challenged them. I asked the person on the phone to tell me what study they referred to so I could read it, and he told me he did not know. So I told him that I am disappointed that in a less than 5 second clip, the message that gets across is that breastfeeding moms should not breastfeed. I asked him to think about how good and reliable studies have shown that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of asthma to the baby, and to consider the idea that maybe the lung capacity is related more to the genetics of being born to an asthmatic mother, and had nothing to do with breastfeeding.He did not have an answer, just told me it wasn't their news story, they were just quoting the article, then took my info and said they would contact me if they went further with the story. After I hung up I sent a follow-up email, and then set out to find that study, and here it is:
Ok, so number one, who funded this study? I heard rumors that it was funded by three major pharmaceutical companies. That would not surprise me at all. Pharmaceutical companies are not big supporters of breastfeeding. Why? you ask? Well evidence shows that breastfeeding prevents illnesses, diseases, hospitalizations, and that certainly does not pad the pockets of the drug companies. Drug companies make their money off of illness and disease,and while I am all for finding cures and recognize all of the important work of drug companies, I much prefer preventing the diseases in the first place. As far as the study, anyone can conduct a study, it is how the study is conducted that is the most important in determining the accuracy and merit of the findings. Differences in research design and analytic methods have complicated the interpretation of many studies, I would encourage my local news and any other media that reports on this to re-examine the study cited in this story and see if its a quality study worthy of air time. I encourage the media to investigate reliable studies that have overwhelmingy shown that breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of asthma to the baby, and to consider the idea that maybe the lung capacity is related more to the genetics of being born to an asthmatic mother, and had nothing to do with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is especially important if there is a family history of asthma/ respiratory disease, because breastfeeding significantly decreases the risks of passing this on to the baby.As a Health Care Professional that spends so much time trying to promote and encourage breastfeeding with new moms, it is very upsetting to know the message that one tiny clip said will be heard by so many. It would have been better if they had made it longer, with statements from a bf knowledgeable MD, or a lactation professional and asked for their opinion. The most important thing would have been to make sure that the fact that asthma is NOT a contraindication to breastfeeding. There were a few positive things I read about breastfeeding benefits last week as well, how come news 12 did not cover that? For one, here is an article about BF and a higher IQ:;_ylt=Ags6p
and here is an article on how breastfeeding is good for the heart:;_ylt=Ags6p.
So as far as News 12, here are my words to you:Do you know that feeding a baby formula increases the risk of asthma, diabetes, ear infections, certain childhood cancers, and SIDS? There is plenty more I can list here as to the benefits of breastfeeding, but I would be typing all day. I encourage you to read the AAP's policy statement on Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. I also ask you to look at these facts-One sudden infant death for every 1000 live birth occurs as a result of failure to breastfeed in western industrialized nations.For every 1000 babies born in the U.Ss each year, four die because they are not breastfed. How would news 12 feel if a baby got sick or died from something that could have been prevented by breastmilk, but mom was an asthmatic, and just watched your story and thought she now had to feed her baby formula? I think it would be wonderful if News 12 would do a follow up, and put a more positive light on breastfeeding, I also think that as the media it is your responsibility to let mothers know the facts here so they can make informed choices regarding their babies.