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Take a hard look at the economic reality
by Susan E. Burger


April 07, 2005

James K. Glassman's article about WHO's excesses is remarkably ill-researched. He confuses correlation with causality and gets the direction of correlation exactly wrong. As a nutritional epidemiologist, there is no other area that has been more documented that the increase in infant mortality that occurs with use of breast milk substitutes in comparison to breast milk. The evidence is overwhelming. This is not just the case for third world infants, but a recent study showed a 20% lower mortality rate among breastfed infants than among those who were fed substitutes in the UNITED STATES after taking into account socio-economic differences. Back in the 1930s, death rates in Chicago among formula-fed infants were higher than those in most third world countries today. And, I'm sure my Belgian colleagues could supply Mr. Glassman with the increased death rates among the unfortunate infants in Belgium who are not fully breastfed and the work time lost from those women having to spend time visiting the pediatrician for preventable ear infections. Then, take a simple case of Necrotizing enterocolotis, which can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Does Mr. Glassman understand that this is entirely preventable by giving premature infants breast milk only?

Moreover, he also gets a little confused about women's work loads in third world countries and he clear has little experience with their daily activities. The average amount of time to sterilize bottles on a daily basis is 150 minutes. Hardly a time saving activity. In many third world areas, this is compounded by the time it takes to get the water to begin with. Not everyone has tap water readily at hand. Some women would even have to spend additional time collecting the firewood to be able to sterilize the water. Another loss of time. In Africa, where other body parts are much more valued for their sexual appeal than the breast, women can simply put the baby in the sling and work quite fine without interruption. So, no time loss for breastfeeding and quite a bit of time saved from visiting doctors, collecting firewood, collecting water, and sterilizing those bottles.

I think Mr. Glassman needs to take a hard look at the economic reality. His numbers just do not add up.


Susan E. Burger, PhD, MHS, IBCLC
New York - USA

(P.S. I happen to be successfully at running my own business and did not find that breastfeeding interfered in the least with pursuing my business goals).


Related Commentary:

Time for Congress to get serious about WHO's excesses by James Glassman



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