January 17, 2011

Is Breast Really Best for First Six Months?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Current guidelines suggest that mothers should exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their babies' lives. However, in a new article, British researchers question whether this recommendation is really beneficial for babies.

The authors analyzed and reviewed current evidence and say it is time to reappraise the recommendation. Lead study author Dr. Mary Fewtrell, a consultant pediatrician at the UCL Institute of Child Health in London, says while breastfeeding early in life is beneficial, exclusively doing so for six months and not introducing other foods may not be. She says there is a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia, celiac disease and food allergies in babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months.

The researchers also suggest that prolonged exclusive breastfeeding might reduce a child's acceptance of new tastes, particularly a bitter taste, which could lead to a disliking of green leafy vegetables. They say this might encourage unhealthy eating later in life and lead to obesity.

In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a global recommendation that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives, which was largely based on a study conducted in 2000. That research showed lower rates of infections and no growth problems in babies who were exclusively breastfed. Fewtrell and her colleagues support this recommendation in less developed countries where access to clean water and safe foods is limited. However, they question whether the policy should be implemented in more developed countries like the United Kingdom.

The researchers conclude by suggesting it is time to review current recommendations in light of the evidence that has accumulated in the last 10 years.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, Jan. 2011