Thursday, 20 January 2011

Breastfeeding in the news

Just in case you missed the news last week there was a BIG breastfeeding story where an article in the British Medical Journal suggested that it might be harmful to exclusively breastfeed babies to 6months.  (It's not!)

Most of the newspapers as well as TV and radio news programmes picked up on it.
Here's one such report from the guardian
http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/jan/14/six-months-breastfeeding-babies-scientists


Here is the link to the original BMJ article
http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5955.full
In short it suggests that exclusively breastfeed babies need weaning between 4 and 6months old because a) they will not get enough iron otherwise and b) not weaning until 6months increases the risk of coeliac disease and possibly some other allergies.

There has been some pretty emotive language used by the media, for example I heard presenters say things like 'breastfeeding to six months could be dangerous to babies' when this is clearly not the case. The presenters would also have done well to avoid the word 'weaning' and used instead 'introducing solids' as some of them clearly thought it referred to the complete removal of milk from the baby and then had to correct themselves. Furthermore one of the authors has been on the media making some pretty strong inferences that because babies in the UK are at a low risk from infection that there is no benefit to breastmilk. (WRONG!!)

Technically it is not 'research' as they haven't tested anything themselves or found anything new, neither is it a 'meta analysis' which would evaluate ALL the research on the topic, it is a 'narrative review' so it just looks at some research on the topic. And as all the authors seem to have a background of opposing exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months as well as doing research for formula and baby food companies one might be suspicious that they would only choose research that backed up that point of view!

I could rant on for hours about this but I'll try to restrain myself and just give you the Baby Friendly Initiative response:
http://www.babyfriendly.org.uk/pdfs/unicef_uk_response_to_BMJ_article_140111.pdf
and the NHS response
http://www.nhs.uk/news/2011/01January/Pages/call-for-breastfeeding-advice-to-be-re-examined.aspx

And for a complete tearing apart of the article have a look at
http://www.analyticalarmadillo.co.uk/2011/01/starting-solids-facts-behind-todays.html
Anyway you might find it interesting to know that 3 of the 4 authors have previously had research funded by formula companies and all the authors have a history of opposing exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months.
 
Finally I guess I need to remember that this is a review NOT a recommendation and the recommendation by the government is still 6months!

If you are interested good links on 'when is my baby ready for weaning?'  are

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON BREASTFEEDING!!

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