Breastfeeding advice by the WHO

10 years ago the World Health Organisation issued guidelines on breastfed babies, the Health Organisation agreed that it was best for the baby if they were exclusively breastfed for the first six months on their life. Now in an unexpected u-turn research conducted by the British Medical Journal has found that weaning a baby off mother’s milk at 6 months or later actually increases iron deficiency and food allergies.

Not all women follow the guidelines as set out by the WHO and midwives also support this, at around 26 weeks of pregnancy midwives are already encouraging mothers to try breastfeeding and to do this as long as possible. Those who cannot breastfeed use formula instead and will start the weaning process as soon as baby is 6months old or more.

Breastfeeding specialists have dismissed the new findings and say that new mothers do not follow advice as it is anyway; most women know when their child is ready to be weaned whether it is above or below the recommended time. There have been many mothers who have weaned babies off milk and onto solids as early as 4 months! It is only advisable if the baby is unable to fill up on milk alone and can sit up. Weaning a baby that is not yet able to sit up unaided is a cause for concern as they will choke if fed solids as it will just sit on the stomach instead of sitting up to aid digestion.

How breastfeeding advice has changed over the last 50 years

  • In the early 1900’s formula was rare and hard to come by, the limited supply that was available was only given to women who were unable to feed naturally.
  • In the1950’s just before the war formula was popular are milk went down, the baby boom started and claims by the U.S that it was just as good as breast milk
  • By 1975 more than half of all babies were bottle fed from birth as women continued to work after having children and formula was widely available and advertised
  • The 1990’s saw the WHO suggest breastfeeding for the first 3 months exclusively
  • By 2001 after much research the WHO guidelines changed and breastfeeding was recommended for the first 6 months
  • By 2005 breastfeeding was over the 75% threshold as many mothers chose breast over formula
  • A change in the law in 2008 meant a ban on all advertising formula milk for babies less than 6 months, though it is widely available in the shops

Breastfeeding advice has changed a lot over the last 50 years and will no doubt keep changing in the future. How you decide to feed and nourish your children is up to you but before you drastically change a babies feeding and diet needs its best to consult your midwife or family GP first.