In what is sure to cause a bit of a stir in the breastfeeding community, the British Medical Journal has published a report that indicates babies may not exactly benefit from a steady diet of breast milk alone in the first six months of life.
Researchers found that delaying the introduction of solid foods and waiting to wean from the breast could increase the occurrences of food allergies and iron deficiency. While most experts have always recommending starting babies on solid foods at six months, this new study is saying four months might be even more beneficial. Furthermore, waiting until six months to introduce solids to a baby could mean the window for introducing new tastes like substance-rich leafy greens is too narrow, thereby leading to increased risks for problems such as obesity later in life.
The current guidelines, issued by the World Health Organization, have been in place for about a decade, and the study says they should remain in place for mothers in developing nations, as their access to clean water and proper baby food can be limited.
But there’s another side to the study, of course. Gillian Smith from the U.K.’s Royal College of Midwives told Sky News in Britain that digestion problems could occur as a result of early feeding because a baby’s stomach isn’t developed enough, according to MSNBC.com.
There are also those who believe that this study will “play into the hands of the baby-food industry,” and argue that some babies in developed countries die from inappropriate young child feeding, namely, the introduction of solid foods at too young an age.
Hopefully the debate that is likely to ensue will take into consideration the fact that food allergies have become a bigger issue in the past few decades — with solid researching showing that the introduction of key foods can help eliminate some allergy risks — and iron deficiency is not something to be taken lightly. I remember introducing rice cereal followed by certain fruits and vegetables to my daughter when she hit the four-month mark without an issue, but I know there are plenty of women who believe strongly that nothing but breast milk is appropriate in the first year of life. I don’t think there’s a single right answer for everyone; it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all issue, and hopefully those who are strong breast milk advocates will at least take into consideration the scientific findings before deciding what’s best in the short and long terms for their babies.
Does this study change your opinion on when babies should be weaned from the breast and/or introduced to solids?