Breastfeeding, Autism, and Mobile Phone Masts

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I stopped breastfeeding my son at 14 months, after multiple futile efforts to stop him biting. It’s possible that the enormous difficulty I had, was related to his autism, since he couldn’t read my face: My tears and cries of pain meant nothing to him. He’d just give me a little smile if I received any reaction from him at all.

Years later I keep encountering studies telling me my breastfeeding reduced the chances of him getting autism, or the severity of his autism. Then I read that it actually made it more likely he would get autism, being a key environmental trigger for the genetic predisposition. Perhaps people stop breastfeeding their children because their child shows autistic traits that make it hard to otherwise continue (such as discussed in this comments section).

As usual, I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I take these things with a grain of salt, and get on with my life. But sometimes the message is delivered in a way that makes you sick to your stomach.

Such as this “well-meaning expert” who advises, with a smile on her face, that the best thing to do is breastfeed your first baby then (and I quote) “throw that first baby out”, because you have now cleared your body of autism-causing toxins. She says she knows that throwing out a baby sounds horrible… hell yes it sounds horrible! Who could say such a thing, knowing her audience will include mothers who breast-fed first-borns who turned out to have autism?

Oh and that’s not some harmless isolated video on the internet. It’s actually embedded on a local autism charity’s blog, where new families are directed for help. Where I was directed for help. Great, thanks.

But what if she’s correct? Just a strong way to make an important point, right? How can we decide who is correct in the great battle of population statistical studies which prove one thing today and the opposite tomorrow. You can start by remembering the difference between correlation and causation, as this piece beautifully illustrates, in regards to the effects of mobile phone masts. But surely something like mobile phone masts would never be added to the endless list of evils that cause autism, right, a line gets drawn somewhere! Surely…?

Spoke too soon.

As a parent of a child with autism, you have to learn to recognise the difference between a scientific study, and a sensationalist piece that makes good headlines. When in doubt, fall back on what has been scientifically proven and stood the test of time, such as the undisputed and huge array of benefits of breastfeeding – both for baby and mother.

Whether you’re willing and able to breastfeed your baby is an individual matter that differs mother to mother, but don’t let fear of causing autism be something you take into account. Until science – and not just statistics  – prove otherwise.

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6 Responses to Breastfeeding, Autism, and Mobile Phone Masts

  1. Stef says:

    I remember listening to national radio a while back when the MMR vaccine study was revealed to be a fraud and one the worst things was that there were parents out there who still thought that they had in someone way caused their child’s autism. It seemed like such an awful burden to carry.

    Then of course there was the un-intended consequence of having many more kids contract measles (some of whom died) due to parents not vaccinating their kids

    • That is definitely a related issue to what I’ve discussed in the post. I intend to do a post all about the vaccination issue (how can I write a blog about autism and not eventually deal directly with the topic?), but I want to be careful about how I approach it since it’s still a topic that parents of autistic children get highly emotional about. Enough to say for now that I fully agree with your comment Stef.

  2. KDL says:

    I saw that video with the “toss the first baby out” lady, too. I think I also responded on my blog. It’s been a while. Needless to say she ticked me off. In my opinion all of these “environmental factors” should be shelved until we understand the biological mechanism a little more — which will primarily come through genetic studies. It does cause parents to wonder if they somehow did harm. I think it’s ironic that my first pregnancy was much healthier – perfect weight gain, no medications, no illnesses, natural childbirth, etc. while the second I was on bed rest for 7 weeks, had to take several medications, infections, c-section with all the related anesthesia and pain meds, etc. First kid is the one with autism. The littles are apparently neuro-typical. And I breastfed all of them about the same length of time. I think the primary factor is genetics and if there is an environmental trigger then it is somehow related to the genetics, so more basic genetic research will be the key to figuring it all out.

    • Absolutely – the key and origins do appear to come from genetics. If there are environmental triggers for the people with the existing genetic predisposition, there is no point in scare-mongering the entire population to avoid those factors, especially when those “environmental factors” otherwise provide direct and proven benefits to children.

      I had a good look through your blog and couldn’t find your post talking about the video, I’d be interested to see what you said. If you happen to come across it or can remember where it was, feel free to post a link to it in the comments here 🙂

  3. Well said KDL, it was worth digging out your comment. Thank you.

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