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…?
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.