|2004 Update: These references are very old. I do not have the time to update them right now, but the Internet has evolved so much since 1996 that most anyone should be able to find the most recent research on any of these topics using http://www.google.com or PubMed.
Several people have asked for the scientific references supporting the claims made in some of the writings available on this web page. Here I provide just a small sample, on a variety of topics, below. I would like to make several additional points. If you look at this list and wonder why your own ob/gyn or pediatrician never mentioned this research to you, it is probably because (1) medical schools do not, for the most part, teach nutrition at all, let alone teach about breastfeeding, nor do they focus on preventing illness, (2) many doctors do not read the medical journals so they are not aware of recent research results, and (3) the infant formula industry is as huge and powerful as the tobacco industry.There is no question that the use of infant formula raises the risk of getting a wide variety of diseases, both in infancy (ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, upper respiratory infections) and in later life (multiple sclerosis, cancer, diabetes), and that breastfed babies are at lower risk for all of these diseases by comparison. An important point to remember about relative risk, and reduction of risk, is that some diseases and conditions are very rare. Thus, one might ask "Is it worth changing one's behavior--breastfeeding instead of bottle-feeding--to reduce the risk of a rare event?" What is abundantly clear from the research comparing the health of breastfed and bottle-fed children is that the reduction in risk for any one disease may be small, and some of the diseases, such as childhood lymphomas, are very rare to begin with, but that the accumulated reduction in risk across all the diseases studied to date is substantial. A number of researchers think that the lower risk of many diseases in breastfed infants is due to their stronger immune systems, rather than specific mechanisms of protection for each condition. Thus, lower rates of lymphoma and multiple sclerosis in breastfed infants can probably be attributed to successful defense of the body by a strong immune system. In choosing whether, and for how long, to breastfeed, parents are making decisions that will have long-lasting consequences for their children's health. They need to be fully informed about the risks that may be avoided by breastfeeding, to make informed and responsible decisions. Just as parents today are informed about the risks involved in not using child safety seats, and drinking during pregnancy--dangers unknown a generation ago--parents today need access to information about the risks of infant formula and shortened durations of breastfeeding. No one would suggest that a parent whose child died in a car accident in the 1950s should "feel guilty" for not having used a child saftey seat before such seats were invented. Nor should parents feel guilty for having chosen to bottle-feed their children before knowledge of the health consequences has been made widely available.