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Archived Comments for: Breastfeeding, infant formula supplementation, and Autistic Disorder: the results of a parent survey

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  1. One component of human milk, DHA, and autism

    Valerie McClain, not applicable

    28 September 2006

    The complex nature of human milk makes me question research in which there is an underlying belief that one component in human milk will prevent a disease or dysfunction. The complexity of a living substance cannot be reduced so simply. Thus this study seems questionable from the beginning.

    But more glaringly apparent is this study's failure to define breastfeeding rigorously. According to the paper, "Breastfeeding data was recorded from a drop-down menu with nine choices of duration of breastfeeding." While knowing duration of breastfeeding is important to the study question, of equal relevance is whether infants in the breastfeeding group were receiving infant formula, water supplementation, other foods or medications. Were parents' choices on the survey only the breastfeeding or infant formula drop-down menu? Exclusive breastfeeding is a rarity, mixed-feeding of breast and artificial milks is common practice. Shouldn't there have been a mixed-feeding drop-down menu? How can we know that breastfeeding and breastfeeding alone lowers the risk of autism, if our studies do not control for mixed-feeding practices of mothers?

    The Autism Society of American states at its website that "the rate of incidence of autism is increasing 10-17% per year in the US." Last year in a media briefing on vaccines and child health at the CDC, Dr. Gerberding stated that the rates of autism were increasing. Most infant formula in the USA has had DHA since 2002. Yet we are still seeing increases in autism. While diagnosis of autism has often been delayed in the past, the level of awareness regarding early diagnosis and intervention has increased significantly. One might question whether the DHA in infant formula has any relationship to prevention of autism.

    Is one human milk component capable of preventing autism? Is DHA the magic bullet to prevent autism? Or are we simplifying the reality of a complex biological fluid delivered by a complex human behavior, breastfeeding.

    Valerie W. McClain, IBCLC

    Competing interests

    No competing interests

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