Can scientists be carriers of ideology, arrivistes, or… are we just living in silly times?

Bambi came across this article (Journal de Montréal, October 4, 2019) by Ms. Marjorie Champagne entitled “Je n’allaite pas donc je pollue[I do not breastfeed, therefore I pollute].

In this article, the journalist expressed her shock in reading another article by Ms. Pauline Gravel (Le Devoir, October 3, 2019) entitled: “Allaiter son enfant pour l’amour de la planète” [Breastfeeding one’s child out of love for the planet].

Bambi was curious. She searched for and read the original scientific article cited in the news article above.

The article basically argues that “Formula milk contributes to environmental degradation and climate change” (a sub-title of the article).

The author wrote that “overall, breastfeeding for six months saves an estimated 95-153 kg CO2 equivalent per baby compared with formula feeding”. For the UK, this would “equate to taking between 50 000 and 77 500 cars off the road each year”.  

First and foremost, Bambi is shocked to see that this paper was authored by a scientist who has published in a very serious journal:

Yes, Dr. Schenker seems to be “a former surgeon, scientist, and the cofounder of the Human Milk Foundation”. 

Plus, the British Medical Journal (BMC for short) is” one of the world’s oldest general medical journals. It published its first weekly edition on 3 October 1840 as the Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal before uniting with the London Journal of Medicine and publishing from January 1853 as the Associated Medical Journal.  Four years later in January 1857, this merged journal became the British Medical Journal”.

The 2018 “Impact Factor” of this journal was 27.604. This is considered a prestigious measure of the frequency with which the journal’s average article has been cited in a particular year. Of course, one must not attribute to this numerical indicator more importance than needed. However, this measure usually tells how much a journal is a serious one in its scientific field. Some articles, namely reviews of the literature, tend to be cited more frequently than others (empirical studies or other types of articles). If this journal publishes that sort of papers, this can contribute to increase its impact factor (or IF) for the year(s) following the review. Regardless, 27.604 is clearly a prestigious IF.

Here is the article in question:

Second, Dr. Schenker ends her paper with the following statement: “We need to acknowledge that “our house is on fire” and that the next generation requires us to act quickly to reduce carbon footprints in every sphere of life. Breastfeeding is a part of this jigsaw, and urgent investment is needed across the sector.”

This is the first time in Bambi’s lifetime, both as a citizen and as a researcher, that she reads a scientific (medical) paper where an author cites a teenager (Greta!) instead of citing the body of knowledge from earlier science (usually produced by real scientists!). How odd.

Third, exactly for the same reasons as Ms. Champagne, Bambi is shocked: Indeed, once again, we are guilting new mothers.

New mothers do not need that extra existential guilt.

They already feel guilty in their early moments of adjustment to motherhood (and even later in their lives).

They can feel guilty if they do not breastfeed long enough. They can also feel guilty if they cannot breastfeed altogether.

They may also wish to or end up not wanting to breastfeed for all sorts of reasons.

Who knows? They may be feeling a bit down due to the common postpartum blues… or worse, they may be struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression.

Whether clinically depressed or not, new moms may end up learning to let go, in order to rely on their support system, and include their partners or family members in the feeding activities. This by itself is an ultimate gesture of maternal love/sensitivity.

So, basically, even if we know all the benefits of breastfeeding from evolution across species, from common sense, and from science, Bambi will say: Enough of pressure on women (and their families) please.

The pressure can come from the external world or… worse, from the mothers’ own self-pressure to be “good” mothers. So, imagine the additional ecological pressure (the new religion of our times) on top of all this?

One must also recall that despite all the benefits of the world stemming from natural milk/breastfeeding, natural selection may have come into play at one point in our human earlier generations to allow us to develop enzymes to digest cow milk. Thank Goodness Bambi is thinking to herself, as her own mom fed her with that delicious cow milk.

Plus, we do not talk much about it but maternal stress hormones do pass through breastfeeding to the infants. Bambi had to statistically control for this effect in one of her studies on depression during pregnancy and infant stress reactivity.

Oh, plus, can’t or don’t mothers who do breastfeed love their kids AND the planet even they do not nurse them?

Without having had the honour of successfully reproducing with her loving partner, Bambi is convinced that their newborn would have meant the world to them… and, at that moment of giving birth, they would have not given a damn about our planet… in all honesty (Bambi is saying this and she usually cares about people, animals, plants, and our shared environments).

Indeed, the last thing that Bambi thought of when losing her three pregnancies was our Planet (neither A nor B!).

That thought also was the last thing on her mind during her fostering and hosting parental experiences.

When kids are in a survival mode (e.g., going through adversities or in their journey transitioning into a new foster home or out of it, they simply do not have the luxury of being as illuminated as some of us are in their aspirations for a “greener” world… or for a sexier (more fundable?) research.

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