Sunday, October 19, 2008

Circumcision has no effect on breastfeeding

Anti-circ activists have made many unsubstantiated claims about the purported risks of circumcision. The claim that circumcision disrupts breastfeeding has been widely disseminated even though there is no scientific evidence to support the claim. A 2007 paper in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health is the first long term study to investigate the affect of circumcision of breast feeding.

Neonatal circumcision: Effects on breastfeeding and outcomes associated with breastfeeding followed 635 male infants for breastfeeding outcomes, health outcomes in infancy and cognitive outcomes in later life.

According to the authors:
circumcision status was not significantly associated with breastfeeding outcomes. Circumcised and uncircumcised infants did not differ in terms of: (i) starting breastfeeding;(ii) the likelihood of being breastfed at age 1 month;(iii) the likelihood of being exclusively breastfed until at least age 4 months; (iv) the risk of stopping breastfeeding by age 4 months due to poor response; and (v) the mean duration of breastfeeding. The findings show that in all cases, rates of breastfeeding were similar for circumcised and uncircumcised children...
The study also demonstrated that circumcision had no impact on childhood health, and no impact on later cognitive performance.

The authors conclude:
While there has been often strong advocacy for the view that circumcision has adverse effects on childhood outcomes by disrupting breastfeeding,this study produced no evidence to support these claims. Circumcised and uncircumcised male children had similar histories of both breastfeeding and the outcomes associated with breastfeeding. These results strongly suggest that claims about the adverse effects of neonatal circumcision on breastfeeding and child health are not sound ...

The results of the study also suggest that it may be unnecessary to balance the medical benefits of circumcision against the medical benefits of breastfeeding. If breastfeeding is not disrupted by circumcision, then it may be possible to provide male infants with the benefits of both circumcision and breastfeeding. This may be of particular benefit in areas of the developing world in which there are high levels of HIV/AIDS transmission, as well as malnutrition and infectious disease...

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