CNN Parenting

The 'breast is best' policy backlash

Story highlights

  • One in five women have insufficient milk production in the early days of motherhood
  • Complications from exclusive breastfeeding are common and devastating

(CNN)This story is not an argument against breastfeeding. My party line, after reading a lot of the research and speaking to a number of experts, is that breastfeeding is truly wonderful if you can make it happen but not of significant consequence if you can't. For those who have access to clean water, formula can be a healthy choice.

This is also not an argument against supporting women in their breastfeeding efforts. New moms anticipating a seamless, euphoric process are often surprised to discover that feeding newborns is hard and rarely goes as planned. Breastfeeding requires education and damage control, and the sooner this is offered to pregnant women and new moms, the better the chance they have of successfully breastfeeding -- if that's what they choose to do.
What this story is, then, is a look at whether our current methods of providing support are working for families.
    Over the past couple of years, a growing number of doctors and nurses have begun to question the current strategy. They're worried that the near single-minded focus on breastfeeding often causes hospital staff to overlook risky behavior, unintentionally putting babies and mothers in harm's way.

    'Fed' is best

    Dr. Christie del Castillo-Hegyi gave birth to her son in 2010 at the same Albuquerque, New Mexico, hospital where she worked as an emergency room doctor. The delivery was fairly textbook, and when del Castillo-Hegyi left the hospital a few days later, she had little cause for concern. Her baby was latching well, and so she followed the lactation consultant's recommendation