A few weeks ago The Times of London reported that Michael Kramer, a well known Canadian researcher of breastfeeding, believes that claims about benefits of breastfeeding are "false and oversold, as there is little evidence that mother’s milk protects babies against illness or allergies."
This set off a furor similar to the response to the Atlantic article, "The Case Against Breastfeeding."
In fact, Dr. Kramer was quoted in both articles. Now he is saying that his comments have been 'grossly misinterpreted' by the authors. The Independent reports:
Or did he? Not a bit of it, says the professor, who is renowned for a groundbreaking study that found an IQ advantage to breastfeeding even after you'd stripped out the natural advantages that being the sort of mum who breastfeeds would give her child. Rather, he is spitting tacks at how his comments had been so "grossly misrepresented" for the second time in almost as many months. (The first was in the respected American magazine, The Atlantic, in an article entitled "The case against breastfeeding", which ignited the original media storm on the subject.)
The Times quoted Kramer, who is based at McGill University, Montreal, as saying there was "very little evidence" breastfeeding reduces the risk of a range of diseases from leukaemia to heart disease. Yet, what he actually said was: "The existing evidence suggests that breastfeeding may protect against the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, heart disease and blood pressure." All he did concede was that we need "more and better studies to pursue these links", a common cry from academics lacking in funding...
He added: "There really isn't any controversy about which mode of feeding is more beneficial for the baby and the mother, but when you read the article in The Times it sounds like there is." Furthermore, he points out: "I'm not aware of any studies that have observed any health benefits of formula feeding. That's important, and any mother weighing the benefits of breastfeeding vs formula feeding needs to know that."
His only note of caution, which was flipped on its head by both publications, was that breastfeeding advocates don't need "to overstate their case for issues that are more controversial", such as the link between breastfeeding and protection against obesity, allergies and asthma. "Public health bodies don't have to exaggerate the benefits in order to be very comfortable about supporting breastfeeding," he added.
I didn't write about the Times article because I was a little worn out from the Atlantic debate (and I had some, ahem, burning questions about Lost). As it turns out, I'm glad that I waited.