We have become too accustomed to equating formula with breast milk. Hence, we have often implicitly considered formula feeding to be ‘the norm’ and breastfeeding to provide enhanced benefits. The CDC and the Surgeon General have reminded us through their recent reports that we should consider breastfeeding as ‘the norm’ and formula feeding as an alternative choice. Consequently, their reports refer to the risks of not breastfeeding when listing the health advantages of breastfeeding.
The health benefits of breastfeeding for infants are well studied and include the prevention of a variety of disease states. The chart below comes from the 2011 Surgeon General’s Call To Action to Support Breastfeeding report and highlights the excess risk of various health outcomes associated with NOT breastfeeding.13
In terms of childhood obesity, a recent study published by the CDC observed the trends of obesity in preschool-aged children. Researchers found that preschool-aged obesity trends in New York City and Los Angeles County, consistent with national obesity trends, are no longer rising. The study identifies positive messaging about breastfeeding, among other messages, produced by the local WIC program’s Eat Well, Play Hard initiative, as corresponding with the no-longer rising obesity trends.14