The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is recommended and breastfeeding for 2 years (with the introduction of solids from 6 months) is beneficial. So, when I came across Sarah Boseley article in the Guardian Newspaper today entitled “Six months of breastfeeding alone could harm babies, scientists now say” I was (almost) lost for words!
The report, published in the British Medical Journal, states that “doctors from several leading child health institutes say the evidence for the WHO guidance was never there – and that failing to start weaning babies on to solids before six months could be harmful.” The study however, does exclude baby formula, positioning it as a healthier option in terms of aquiring a balanced diet for a baby under the age of 6 months.
Whilst I am pro-breastfeeding, and I honestly do not care how someone else feeds their baby as long as their baby is fed, I do take great offence when someone tries to imply that I am doing my child wrong by feeding her the way nature intended! Justification for this report comes in the shape and form of deficiencies and food allergies all of which begs the questions – how have they managed to collate such data considering clinical trials on babies are unethical and therefore do not exist? A study based on empirical data alone is clearly flawed! Who paid for this study to be conducted? Breastfeeding certainly does not fit in with mass consumerism … baby formula companies despise breastfeeding women because, once they’ve breastfed for 6 months the changes of them converting them to become a customer is almost impossible.
Waiting until 6 months to introduce solids is based on a range of physical factors; 6 months is the average age a baby can sit unassisted and therefore, safely swallow food. The gag reflex is moving further back in the babies mouth (a reflex designed to PROTECT a baby from having anything other than milk) which means they can readily accept solids. But hey, what’s the big deal? A baby isn’t a person right? They should be force-fed before they are physically ready because that’s what reports say!
So my parting questions are: If exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is indeed harmful how, since the beginning of time did we survive without purées, rice cereals and formula? What about the fact that breastfed babies are sick less often (despite the implied iron deficiency in the report?)
Many breastfeeding women come up against a number of obstacles, personal and physical during their breastfeeding journey, with little support (in my case especially) but we persevere, cherish and embrace it because we rely on something that no study can ever quash … a mother’s instinct.
wow, that’s ridiculous! i nursed my first son for 23 months and my second one is 7.5 months and going strong…those docs should be ashamed of themselves! checkout my blog sometime, sounds like we’d have some things in common.
I agree with you wholeheartedly!! BabyinProvence (BiP) is 8.5 months old and is happy, healthy and bigger than most babies her age … I wouldn’t do it any other way!
From the original article:
The paper acknowledges that three of the four authors “have performed consultancy work and/or received research funding from companies manufacturing infant formulas and baby foods within the past three years”.
Enough said there then.
Thanks for your comment! You are so right!!! So annoying that this type of article makes the news under the pretence of a “scientific study”!
(great to have a male perspective too!)
Hiya, I’m really glad BLW worked for you, it did for us too, I just started a little ealier. I guess everyone can interpret the report differently but when I read it, it read as if the point wasn’t to stop people exclusively breastfeeding, it was to question whether or not you should avoid solids until 6 months. The nutritionists involved are pro-breastfeeding, but they are also pro-food and for some babies, leaving it until 6 months to introduce food could be harmful.
For me, my baby would never have made it to 6 months without solids. She would have been malnourished if I hadn’t supplemented breast milk with solids. We started at 4 months with mashed up food (I never fully pureed, she didn’t need it) and by six months we were on finger foods.
Weaning is largely insinctive so its about doing whats right for you and for your baby and ONLY you know that, no one else can prescribe that and I think thats one of the points of the report – whats right for some babies (especially in the developing world), isn’t right for others.
Thanks for your comment … a mother’s instinct will always prevail! I don’t feel that there is a hard and fast rule! BiP didn’t start solids on the day she turned 6m – it was a natural transition to solids – whatever works!
However, many mothers cling to medical reports as gospel and that is when I think things get out of control … I don’t meet many women who trust their instincts like we do!
just an additional note:
the reason theres so much iron in formula is because that particular source of iron is not easily absorbed by the babys body, they have to put a lot in in order for it to meet the babys iron needs. the majority of it becomes waste.
by comparison breastmilk has less iron than formula (so it would appear insufficient to the uninformed) but thats because that type of source is easily absorbed, so the baby is getting the right amount. as it is from a natural source it is designed to benefit the baby as best as possible.
i hope that makes some sense, im mildly sleep deprived!!!
unicef has responded to this information, pointing out the many flaws in the research and the fact that those who were involved recieve funding from the baby food industry:
Well said! I did wonder if there was some biased sponsership to the research! Stuff like this just makes me even more determined to carry on breastfeeding, and whilst I know other women have a choice, this is my choice and I believe it’s the best for my children.
“how have they managed to collate such data considering clinical trials on babies are unethical and therefore do not exist?”
This made me LOL because I was wondering the same thing.
I EFF my baby but I find this article very offensive still. I’ve known too many moms who EBF for the first 6 months who have such healthy and normal babies without any deficiencies, no allergies, etc. And lots of EFF babies who are also totally healthy and normal, too. And some babies I know are on the opposite side of the spectrum – allergies, lots of illnesses etc – and some were EBF some were EFF. It seems a lot of it has more to do with genetics than what they are eating.
I don’t know if this bf vs ff debate will truly ever end. It seems like no matter what ‘side’ of it you are on, someone is always putting you down. I prefer to not take sides myself. I think we should all be supportive of each other in how we choose to feed our babies and and articles like this just stir up debate and cause more issues between moms.
It’s funny how people read things and only pick out certain parts to further their own agenda. For example, the article did state that three of the doctors were consulted by baby food companies but people seemed to miss the part that said they were consulted because they specialize in child nutrition. The article did NOT say you shouldn’t breastfeed, it was not a battle against breast feeding, it was simply about when to begin introducing solids. Some people need to pay attention to what they read before getting offended and getting their panties in a bunch. FYI, I am a mother of 5 and breastfed ALL of them. Out of the five 2 did not start solids until 6 months and the other 3 at 4 or 5 months. All of them continued to breastfeed as well until they weaned themselves.
Thanks for your comments – I can assure you that there are no “panties in a bunch” here … I have strong doubts about the ethics of any study in which huge commercial interests are involved. Three of the authors have been paid by baby food companies to develop infant formulas and baby foods and now this ‘study’ comes out. Please, they have lost any credibility in my eyes. Do you think researchers are living in a vacuum and not subject to any outside pressures when it comes to grants and ‘consulting’ fees?
The study says breastfeeding shouldn’t be stopped (great, they needed a study to find that one out) but they prefer to introduce solids earlier. This is pure hypocrisy. The baby food manufacturers know perfectly well that most mothers don’t have time to prepare balance meals and the sales of baby food will grow.
This reminds me of big tobacco companies supporting anti-smoking campaigns for teenagers. Because what is the easiest way to get a teenager to smoke?
Big tobacco supported research against nicotine addiction for years, they are now banned from funding research.
Why doesn’t this apply to the baby food manufacturing companies? They produce sub-standard products which are often the worst things any human being can eat, yet we still let them fund research which could potentially change national health policy in the UK.
Wow! Are they serious???
On a related note, I highly recommend the book “Milk, Money and Madness” that talks about how the formula culture came to be. A very insightful book.
Thanks so much for the book recommendation! Off to see if I can get it online in France!
Being a mum to 5, the advice has changed so much from child to child. When my 17 year old was a baby the advice was to wean at 12 weeks! With my 13 and 10 year olds it was 16 weeks and with my 3 year old it was recommended at 6 months! Now I have a 14 week old even the health visitors aren’t sure!!
My advice to anyone is that you know when baby is ready. All my children were breastfed until they were about 2 and were weaned when they were ready and started showing an interest in food. They are all healthy and have good attitudes towards food!
Baby food companies probably don’t like me either as I prefer to make my own baby food in batches and freeze it. It’s cheaper and I know what’s in it. I have always found jars of baby food very bland!
Great advice Kara! I am a strong believer in trusting your instinct and respecting your child’s rhythms.
am confuse about the contradicting advise on exclusive breastfeed. because i want to do it for a period of 6 months.
The World Health Organisation recommends 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding. I went with that.
Thank you so much for this article! I just Googled about BF exclusively for first 6 months, looking for article to send a friend to show how important it is, and came up with the Guardian article. Have now been really worrying, even though I BLW’d my first son, that I’m doing it ‘wrong’ with my second.Thinking about it, it’s fairly likely the ‘research’ is from baby food manufacturers so I will ignore it and carry on as I’ve planned. Thanks again! 🙂
@RoamyHunt Glad you found it useful! I think you should trust your instinct. And yes, I believe that the funding for this “study” definitely swayed the results. At the end of the day the proof is with the millions of kids who are BLW’d from 6 months and are perfectly healthy (my chunky monkey is in that list too!) Thanks for commenting … hope to see you here again!
The reason the WHO changed its recommendation was to provide better nutrition for babies in low-income countries, where water and other foods may be contaminated or nutritionally inadequate, according to the study.
“In high-income countries, the evidence for recommending six months of exclusive breastfeeding is less clear,” the researchers wrote in their study, adding the WHO has requested that researchers conduct randomized controlled trials — the gold standard in medical studies — to look at the issue. The new study is among the first to do just that.