Monday, March 25, 2013

Today's Study Popularization for Mothers! Fun.

It is about a study which finds that infants are introduced to solid foods too early if the comparison is to expert advice on when that should happen.  But forget about the topic for a while and just focus on the interesting question who it is who is being talked to here and in what tone:

Moms Serve Up Solid Food Too Soon, Study Finds

Many mothers in the U.S. start infants on solid foods -- including peanut butter, meat, and french fries -- earlier than experts recommend, and half of them do so with their doctor's support, according to new research from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study found that 40.4 percent of U.S. mothers interviewed from 2005 to 2007 said they introduced solid foods to infants before they were 4 months old -- that represents an increase of about 29 percent from earlier studies, the researchers reported today in the journal Pediatrics.

More than half of the mothers (55 percent) cited a doctor's advice as one of the reasons for introducing solids before 4 months.
"With multiple sources of information on infant feeding and care from healthcare providers, family, friends, and media, specific information on the timing of solid food introduction may be conflicting and not necessarily sensitive to the needs of mothers," the authors said.
Among mothers who introduced solid foods earlier than 4 months, the mean age of the children at introduction was 11.8 weeks, and 9.1 percent of early introducers gave solids to infants younger than 4 weeks, they added.
The authors noted that if they factored in the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) 2012 feeding recommendation to avoid giving solid foods until 6 months, 92.9 percent of their analytic sample would have been "early introducers."

The bolds are mine.

Most of the stuff that irritates me in this write-up is subtle but it is still worth noticing because it is almost universal.  First, the title tells us that "moms" serve up solid food too soon.  The "moms" is not quite defined anywhere in the summary, though reading it makes me assume that these were mothers who had infants between 2005 and 2007.

But the headline says "moms."  Because the majority of women are mothers, the headline appears to speak to the majority of women and tells them that they are doing it wrong. 

Second, I really, really doubt that feeding four-month-old babies peanut butter, meat or french fries was something the doctors supported.  Indeed, I doubt that feeding those food items to small babies was anything but very rare in the study.   I may be wrong as I haven't dug up the study yet, but honest, most people, whether mothers or not, know that babies shouldn't be eating french fries.  They don't have teeth, for one thing.

Thus, that bit was added to hint that "these" mothers are just dreadful people, where you can insert whatever your definition of a mother might be into that little word in quotation marks.

Third, comparing what mothers of infants between 2005 and 2007 did to recommendations that came out in 2012 is kinda unfair.  The relevant comparison is to recommendations that existed between 2005 and 2007, if we wish to know whether mothers of infants and their doctors follow such recommendations.

The popularization then argues that pediatricians and other relevant doctors may not have sufficient information about recommended feeding of infants which is a valid point.  But this also irritated me, apparently from the study itself:

Healthcare providers might be as equally confused about infant feeding guidelines as mothers, the authors wrote, saying some clinicians "may rely on their own infant feeding experience rather than evidence-based guidelines when counseling women."

That looks like a speculation, not something the study unearthed, and because we are told that "moms" are the ones making the feeding mistakes, the odds are that those clinicians are "moms", too.

Then there is this bit, where the numbers just don't seem to add up to 100%  however hard I try:

Among early introducers, 52.7 percent exclusively formula-fed their infants; 50.2 percent mixed formula with breastfeeding, and 24.3 percent only breastfed.
 Whatever was supposed to be in that sentence, being sloppy about supposedly important research findings isn't helpful for the reader.