Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Is this enough?

16 Jan
A baby breastfeeding.

Image via Wikipedia

Current advice from health care professionals is that we should exclusively breastfeed our babies for the first six months.  This advice came out following recommendations from the World Health Organisation ten years ago. A recent article in the British Medical Journal this week, suggests that exclusive breastfeeding for six months may not be best for baby.  The editors suggests that waiting until 6 months to wean could increase the risk of food allergies and iron deficiency levels.

Janet Fyle, professional policy adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “I really must challenge the suggestion that the UK should reconsider its current advice on exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

“I believe that this is a retrograde step and plays into the hands of the baby-food industry which has failed to support the six-month exclusive breastfeeding policy in the UK”

Pressure from formula milk manufacturers will no doubt have an effect on how this ‘recommendation’ is dealt with and how the media portray it.  It’s interesting that three of the authors involved in the BMJ article  have performed consultancy work and/or received research funding from companies manufacturing infant formulas and baby foods within the past 3 years!

In the meantime,  what are we as parents to do?  Which advice should we follow? There have been so many papers published on this subject.  The World Health Organisation tells us that babies who are exclusively breastfed for 6 months have no growth problems and suffer from fewer infections.

No doubt there will be more research into this controversial topic, personally I breastfed both my babies  and did not introduce solids until the recommended six months.  Neither of them have shown any signs of allergies so far, that’s not to say they won’t develop any in the future.  However, I was not breastfed at all, was given solids at 12 weeks and had been diagnosed with Coeliac disease by the time I was 12 months old.  Again, this goes back to what is recommended by health care professionals and in the 70’s, the advice was a lot different than it is now!

This new information isn’t based on a full research study, it is simply a doctor raising the point that maybe it is time to look at the current guidelines again.  This is all very confusing for us as parents and, for a mum who has been exclusively breastfeeding it can also be very upsetting.   As long as you take your baby for regular check ups and to make sure they are putting on weight – you will know when your baby is thriving and growing within the recommended levels.   For most babies  exclusive breast feeding IS enough and you will know this yourself.  If your baby is happy and healthy then they are probably getting what they need.

For me, it is about more than the actual make up of the milk.  It is about the bond that you get with your baby when you breastfeed.  It is about skin to skin contact and a type of nurturing that nothing else can ever come close to.  Add to this, the benefits of breastfeeding for mum:  It lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, uses up to 500 calories per day and saves you money (formula milk is expensive!) It’s convenient too! No need to make up bottles, it even comes out at the right temperature.

More benefits for baby *

  • less chance of diarrhoea and vomiting and having to go to hospital as a result
  • fewer chest and ear infections and having to go to hospital as a result
  • less chance of being constipated
  • less likelihood of becoming obese and therefore developing type 2 diabetes and other illnesses later in life
  • less chance of developing eczema

* Source: http://www.nhs.uk

What do you think?  Who should we listen to, or should we follow our own instincts when it comes to feeding our baby?


4 Responses to “Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. Is this enough?”

  1. Lucy Brown January 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    You rock Mrs D!
    We need more sensible thinking like yours – motherly instinct and whether or not your a baby is thriving should surely be the indicators to wean. I say we keep breastfeeding to 6 months if we can until proper research tells us otherwise.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. Zee February 11, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Does the baby’s weight not have a role in determining if breastmilk alone wil b enough for 6months

  3. Natalia April 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    I think What matters is if your baby gains enough weight and if he is peeing and pooping fine. If his diaper is dry and clean and he isn’t gaining weight then you know he’s not getting enough to eat, introduce him to solids. My baby is 4,5 months old, exclusevly breastfed. He is now 8,5 kilos (born full term at 3,750) and seems fine. He pees a lot and poops every 2 to 5 days. He gains about 20 grams per day. So as you can see although he’s pretty big for his age he still is fine being exclusively breastfed. I believe that we should breastfeed our children as long as we can. I’m planing on doing so till he’s at least 2 y.o. In a couple of months I’ll start giving him solids but I’ll keep breast milk as his main food till he’s 1 y.o. After that I’ll feed him 50/50 till 18-20 months and after I’ll nurse him at least once a day. I don’t know if this is the best way but it feels right.

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