Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Breastfeeding in the news

Posted on: January 14, 2011

In a paper published yesterday in the British Medical Journal researchers from the University of London Institute of Child Health (UCL) claim that relying purely on breastfeeding for the first six months might not be best for babies. Interestingly, the study “acknowledges that three or four of the authors have performed consultancy work and/or received research funding from companies manufacturing infant formula” which brings into question the validity of the research; a further criticism is that research needs to be population specific.

Today, many prominent organisations have spoken against this paper, however it is confusing for members of the public and undermines the work that midwives and others do to promote breastfeeding.

The current advice in the United Kingdom based on World Health Organisation guidelines, says that babies should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months however the UCL team say that weaning could happen as early as four months as it is claimed that the later weaning might increase food allergies and lead to nutrient deficiencies.  This statement is heralded as a “retrograde step” by the Royal College of Midwives professional policy adviser Janet Fyle and others.   Indeed a Department of Health spokeswoman said: “Breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs up to six months of age and we recommend exclusive breastfeeding for this time. Mothers who wish to introduce solids before six months should always talk to health professionals first.

In summary the current best advice is to exclusively breastfeed for six months and then to continue breastfeeding with food supplements for at least a year.

Further discussion can be found at:
www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jan/14/breastfeeding-comment-joanna-moorhead

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