Title: Unintended Consequences of Invoking the “Natural” in Breastfeeding Promotion Medical and public health organizations recommend that mothers exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months. This recommendation is based on evidence of health benefits for mothers and babies, as well as developmental benefits for babies. A spate of recent work challenges the extent of these benefits, and ethical criticism of breastfeeding promotion as stigmatizing is also growing. Building on this critical work, we are concerned about breastfeeding promotion that praises breastfeeding as the “natural” way to feed infants. This messaging plays into a powerful perspective that “natural” approaches to health are better, a view examined in a recent report by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Promoting breastfeeding as “natural” may be ethically problematic, and, even more troublingly, it may bolster this belief that “natural” approaches are presumptively healthier. This may ultimately challenge public health’s aims in other contexts, particularly childhood vaccination.
... Studies have shown that parents who resist vaccination tend to inhabit networks of like-minded individuals with similar beliefs. These pockets of antivaccination sentiment tend to overlap with reliance on and interest in complementary and alternative medicine, skepticism of institutional authority, and a strong commitment and interest in health knowledge, autonomy, and healthy living practices.
... We should think twice before referencing the “natural” in breastfeeding promotion, even if it motivates women to breastfeed.
In the meantime...
In a recent article published in the British Medical Journal, Crowcroft et al (2015) suggest we need a new approach to vaccine recommendations. Focusing mainly on the economic and ethical considerations involved in public policy surrounding vaccine programs and vaccine approval the authors write:
“We are on a steep trajectory away from an era of inexpensive vaccines for diseases that are widespread in the absence of immunisation…Technologies such as searching genetic codes for possible antigens and the development of new adjuvants to stimulate immune responses also bring considerable uncertainty about safety and effectiveness.” “…some sections of society are less likely to vaccinate themselves or their children. Those who hesitate to vaccinate are often highly educated, well resourced, and demand respect for their perspectives.”