When breast isn’t best (apparently)

Attention breastfeeding mums – you know that old saying, breast is best? Well, in your case it might not be.

Shocking thing to say isn’t it? Well there’s a new product out there on the market and some spin that goes with it that could be seen to be implying just that.

I read this story on the Daily Mail this morning about a test called My Milk Count. Essentially, the story tells us about a ¬£99 test breastfeeding mums can take to assess the quality of their breastmilk. On the My Milk Count website we’re told a bit more about it. It’s been developed by scientists at Stirling University to check the content of breast milk. Why? ‘So mums ensure their babies are getting the correct balance of essential nutrients’. Apparently, you can pay to have your milk checked for levels of a type of Omega 3 fatty acid which is important for brain development in babies. The test is the first of its kind in the UK.

All you need to do mummies, is send off some of your precious breast milk and you’ll get a report back on how good it is along with handy tips on how to improve it by changing your diet. A sample report on the site shows one test result as .56 which is ‘below the optimal range’.

I’m not convinced that breastfeeding mums need to take such a test, and I’m even less convinced about its value when it comes to promoting breastfeeding. On the first point, the health article in the Daily Mail sums it up perfectly in this quote and makes the point that the NHS isn’t concerned about the levels of Omega 3 in donated breast milk – so why should any breastfeeding mummy be?

“The Human Milk Bank at the Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the first to use high-tech nutrition-analysis technology on every sample donated. None of the milk it receives from mothers has had to be rejected because it is nutritionally below-par, according to a spokeswoman.

‘We test for protein, carbohydrates and total solids. These are the important things, and we have found that all our samples are nutritionally sufficient, even for vulnerable premature babies.’ So the NHS isn’t concerned about the levels of omega 3 and omega 6 in breast milk.”

Precisely. If the NHS isn’t worried about the nutritional content of breastmilk – why should we be? The test, in my eyes, could quite simply be dangerous and counter productive. Many new mums find breastfeeding very difficult, at least initially. At a time when they are exhausted, emotionally drained and often waiting for their milk to come in, breastfeeding isn’t easy.

Even once it is established, stress, tiredness and many other factors can effect production. Breastfeeding women already have this to worry about. Surely we don’t need to give them more to fret over by suggesting the quality of their milk might not be up to standard? Insinuating that they might not be providing the best milk to make their kids as clever as they could be is surely a step too far?

Breast feeding advocates work hard on little funding to try and convince mums that breast is best – despite being up against multinational companies with big budgets to promote tins of formula. The years of myths (your baby is hungry and needs formula, your baby is big you don’t have enough breastmilk to feed him etc) have finally been quashed and exposed for being just that – fictions not based on science.

An unnecessary test, then, that assesses the quality of a mums milk, is a step backwards. Surely promoting a healthy diet to all new mums, including those who choose to breastfeed, would be a more valuable activity? Surely promoting the benefits that all mothers who breastfeed pass on to their babies would be yet another more useful campaign? Instead, we have a business that has set out to make money from women who choose to feed their babies breast milk. It is a commercial venture, a way of commodifying a mother’s milk – which is a precious life-giving liquid gold that is surely above value.

3 responses

    • I’ve just been reading it! Great post Charlotte. I’m really upset and angry about it too. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it this morning. New mums are so vulnerable and often have so many insecurities, I really feel like this is preying for it. Completely agree that I hope women don’t fall for it, however, I can imagine that at times with my first I could have been sucked in. xx

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