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Can we just stop with all this breastfeeding misinformation

Let’s just get this clear.
Breastfeeding is best for babies.  End of.  Its what nature intended and the milk is designed to be exactly what a specific baby needs at every specific stage.

Formula on the other hand is not poison.  It has saved the lives of babies where their mothers couldn’t or wouldn’t nurse them.  But, whilst good for babies, it isn’t quite the same as breastmilk.  Its similar, it does lots of good things but it isn’t exactly the same as mother’s milk.

None of that should be up for debate today.

However, sadly the media have got their knickers in a twist over what the actual message is from an article published this week in the British Medical Journal.

Reading the press you’d be forgiven from believing that breast is not best (thank you to The Sun for that), that breastfeeding for six months may increase anaemia in babies (more on that later), that weaning at six months could raise the risk of your child developing allergies.

Liking to do my research I have found out a few things that might interest you, that might show just how warped the reporting around this subject is.

  • Three of the authors of the paper receive funding from the baby food industry – they are Mary Fewtrell, Alan Lucas and David Wilson.
  • This is not a report on new data – it is an observation of old studies and is reopening the debt and suggesting further investigation is required.
  • The report states that the evidence for breastfeeding is extensive and whether to breastfeed or not is not up for discussion.
  • Its main conclusion is to call for more research because it is not clear cut as to the evidence about whether we should introduce solids at 4 months or 6 months.
  • Its not over turning current guidelines which focus on not before 4 months (which nobody is disputing, nobody is now saying very early weaning is a good idea) but instead continuing to say that different children are ready at different times and perhaps more research needs to be done.
  • Its says that we definitely know that before 4 months is a bad thing but now adds that it might be a good idea to start by six months and when babies are showing signs of readiness.

Perhaps the papers could have gone on about recognising the genuine signs of readiness rather than just waking more / looking at food / chewing.

Perhaps some of these journalists should have bothered to read the article itself and perhaps checked what it said before leaping in the deep end.

Perhaps they should have resisted the urge to pour oil onto the bonfire of the war they imagine occurs around how we feed our children.

Perhaps they could have researched around different weaning styles and how they can be tailored to your child.

Perhaps they could have considered that this wasn’t an opportunity to take a pop at breastfeeding and those who breastfeed.

But they didn’t.

Again.

Responsible reporting at its best.

And meant I had a fun moment with my mother in law where she had a little go about it no longer being a good idea to exclusively breastfeed for six months…  I may have got a touch heated and started quoting research papers at her…  Ooops

Oh and can I just deal with the iron thing which is a particularly irritant of mine.  And probably the reason my friend and I set up our breastfeeding support group because we were sick of the local health visitors giving out misleading information.

Research suggests that a healthy, full term baby has enough iron to last between 6 and 12 months.

Breastmilk has a different, more easily absorbed type of iron in it compared to solid food or formula.  All of this anaemia stuff fails to focus on the fact you aren’t comparing like with like and that there is no evidence to support it.

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14 comments to Can we just stop with all this breastfeeding misinformation

  • Blue

    You missed that they’re discovering delaying cutting the cord for even just 30 seconds dramatically increases a baby’s iron stores. If they lefty the cord until it stopped pulsing as a routine procedure, anemia wouldn’t be an issue for full term babies & probably not for preemies, either.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Claire Louise Lloyd and others. Claire Louise Lloyd said: RT @MuddlingAlong: Blogging – can we just stop this breastfeeding misinformation http://tinyurl.com/5ukvmso […]

  • You are so right. I always find it ridiculous when there is a guideline which says that “babies” (uniform, all-the-same) “should” (no exceptions allowed) be doing so-and-so by time X (an exact time, because all babies reach all milestones on the exact same day and we can measure this precisely).

    I was following the guideline to breastfeed exclusively for six months this time (I didn’t the last two times) and had to admit at five months that my baby was begging me for solids. He wasn’t as happy any more, slept even worse than before (which is very very bad) and was very cranky at the table because we weren’t sharing. He’s having solids now and took to them straightaway and is much much happier, sleeps better, is learning more etc. I think I even started too late – he’d been showing all the signs for several weeks already.

    Having said that, my baby is a GIANT who was nearly twelve pounds at birth, and who is still at the top of all the weight and height curves. He’s not average at all, so I shouldn’t have been listening to the average guidelines.

    (I can get quite heated up about this, too. :-) )

  • Very sensible post after a day of media madness.

  • Hazel

    Got to wonder how the human race survived this far if breastmilk wasn’t enough.

    The paper wasn’t as bad as the initial headlines suggested it might be – in fact, it’s not really a paper, more of a comment. But there are a couple of randomised controlled trials going on at the moment about when to introduce solids, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. I really don’t know how I could have introduced solids at 4 months – C still had a pretty active tongue thrust reflex and everything would have come straight out.

    And while we’re at it, I wish we could get back to using ‘weaning’ in its correct context which is stopping breastfeeding not introducing solids. Although there’s another whole can of worms there just waiting to be opened!

  • I had a little waffle about this too, not nearly as well researched though.

  • I’ve read loads of these posts since Friday and I feel like you’re one of the few people who has either (a) actually read the article and (b) interpreted it the same way as me.

    To me the most important thing is that the people involved are proposing that the government re-assess their blanket statement that parents should wait until 6 months until weaning. I don’t think you can apply a blanket statement to anything when it comes to babies – there tends to be a sense of guilt involved for those who ‘disobey’ the rules.

    • Muddling Along

      I’m a bit of a geek so had to read it – mostly because I couldn’t believe it could be as reported

      I think there’s one thing between giving solid food sometime between 4 and 6 months as baby shows readiness (can sit unassisted, has lost tongue thrust reflex, grabs food) and those that spoon in baby rice / give cereal in bottles earlier mistaking growth spurts or requiring better sleep not realising that small babies don’t sleep for 12 hours normally

      Am so worried that this media mess will confuse messages even more

  • Mum on the move

    Just come across your blog and thank ing goodness for someone out there who actually bothers to read the papers, understand the research and correct those jumping on the ‘daily mail’ band wagon.

  • Oh great post.

    I’m a medical writer but I just turn away from stories on bfing as I find the subject too depressing in the mainstream media. We’re mammals, we’re born to bf our babies, babies are born to bf. Formula is amazing for supporting us when we’re not able but it’s a substitute and we should view it as that rather than the norm (which is what the general population in the UK see it as, number-wise at least).

    The trials Hazel mentions on introducing solids/risk of allergy are going to be important but I turned it down for Merri as I felt that BLW was so relaxed and enjoyable for R I didn’t want to do the trial’s week X a teaspoon of this and week X+1 a teaspoon of this and that… I found it v difficult to make that decision as I think the science is so important but I strongly suspect the increased number of severe allergies are due to environmental factors other than food.

  • I think the one thing I have learnt from bf is to listen to baby cues. When you feed a baby formula according to the guidelines on a tin, you are assuming your baby is the same as every other formula fed baby. Breastfeeding on demand helps you tune in to your babies specific needs and this branches out to all aspects of child rearing incl weaning. I wanted to reach 6 months exclusively with Chubs but as a big baby, I could see he was ready earlier so we started blw at 5 1/2 months and I’m so glad I was able to recognise the signs. Great post!

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