Is 'breast only' for first 6 months best?

Jan 13, 2011

Current guidance advising mothers in the UK to exclusively breast feed for the first six months of their baby's life is being questioned by child health experts in the British Medical Journal today.

The authors, led by Dr Mary Fewtrell, a consultant paediatrician at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, have reviewed the evidence behind the current guidance and say the time is right to reappraise this recommendation.

The researchers stress that while they fully back exclusive breast feeding early in life, they are concerned that exclusively doing so for six months and not introducing other foods may not always be in the child's best interests.

In 2001 the World Health Organisation (WHO) made its global recommendation that infants should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months. Many western countries did not follow this recommendation but in 2003 the UK health minister announced that the UK would comply.

Fewtrell and colleagues support six months exclusive breast feeding in less developed countries where access to clean water and safe weaning foods is limited and there is a high risk of and illness. However they have reservations about whether the WHO's guidance about when to introduce other foods is right for the UK.

The WHO's recommendation that mothers should breast feed exclusively for six months is largely based on a systematic review undertaken in 2000 that considered existing research in this area, say the authors. This review concluded that exclusively breast fed babies have fewer infections and that the babies experience no growth problems.

Dr Fewtrell argues that the evidence that alone provides sufficient nutrition for six months is questionable. She says there is a higher risk of anaemia if babies are exclusively breast fed and that there could also be a higher incidence of and food allergies if children are not introduced to certain solid foods before six months.

The authors also fear that prolonged exclusive breast feeding may reduce the window for introducing new tastes, particularly bitter taste which may be important in the later acceptance of green leafy vegetables. This could encourage unhealthy eating in later life and lead to obesity, they say.

Fewtrell and colleagues conclude that it is time to review the UK's guidance in the light of the evidence that has built up on this issue over the last ten years.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Bottle feeding and obesity

Mar 07, 2006

Bottle-fed babies who graduate to solid food too early could be storing up weight problems for years to come.

How to help baby like fruits and veggies

Dec 03, 2007

Moms, want your baby to learn to like fruits and vegetables? According to new research from the Monell Center, if you’re breast feeding, you can provide baby with a good start by eating them yourself.

Study: Breast-feeding would save lives, money

Apr 05, 2010

(AP) -- The lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women breast-fed their babies for the first six months of life, a cost analysis says.

Recommended for you

AMA examines economic impact of physicians

5 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Physicians who mainly engage in patient care contribute a total of $1.6 trillion in economic output, according to the American Medical Association (AMA)'s Economic Impact Study.

Less-schooled whites lose longevity, study finds

5 hours ago

Barbara Gentry slowly shifts her heavy frame out of a chair and uses a walker to move the dozen feet to a chair not far from the pool table at the Buford Senior Center. Her hair is white and a cough sometimes interrupts her ...

How to keep your fitness goals on track

6 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The New Year's resolutions many made to get fit have stalled by now. And one expert thinks that's because many people set their goals too high.

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Moebius
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2011
I lived with a good friend and his wife for a while. She was a great cook. He didn't like most everything so she always made the couple things he liked for him while she made other stuff for us. He said to me once he envied me that I liked everything. He told me his mother made him and his brother and sister anything they wanted when they were kids. All they ever asked for was hamburgers.

When I was a kid I had to eat what was put in front of me and forced at times. I didn't like it much at the time but now I am grateful that I'm not like my friend. We are too tolerant and permissive with kids. They are called children instead of adults for a reason. They should not be allowed to have their own way all the time and should be forced to do things.
Terrible_Bohr
3 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2011
I was hoping for a picture with this article.
Mira_Musiclab
3 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2011
Nah, I want boobies for more than just six months, seems a waste to be growing them otherwise..

But hey, that's just me.. :P
deatopmg
1 / 5 (1) Jan 15, 2011
How did we, and all other mammals, survive w/o breast feeding?

Based on evidence from "primitive" humans, 6 mo. is not an unreasonable length of time for exclusive breast feeding. But maybe Fewtrell is right and our modern diet is the problem w/ way too much sugar and omega-6 fats etc.

Since babies, even after 6 mo., put everything in their mouths despite the taste, waiting until 6 mo. to introduce bitter foods should not be a problem.

Genetics is likely the problem w/ likes and dislikes at a young age and many kids, like my son, eventually outgrow their EXTREME food aversions.
Mira_Musiclab
not rated yet Jan 15, 2011
Guess I'll inject something other than just silly commentary here. (kinda flopped anyways)

If mom' in good health, and good diet, I see nothing wrong with breastfeeding for up to 18 months. Countered with the notion that yes, you should be trying to get your infant trying other foods by six months.
Babies don't all develop at the same rate. It's a lot to do with having a good read on the childs development, (and hopefully, a good pediatrician who can help give advice) and keeping a wholesome balance of the foods that are given..

Remember reading somewhere that salt ends up being an 'acquired' taste.. I'm gonna have to ask mom if she was feeding me doritos or something back then, lol..

More news stories

Cancer stem cells linked to drug resistance

Most drugs used to treat lung, breast and pancreatic cancers also promote drug-resistance and ultimately spur tumor growth. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.