Doctors Urge WHO to Reconsider Breast-Feeding Recommendations

(Image credit: Justyna Furmanczyk | Stock Xchng)

Some health experts are questioning current recommendations in the United Kingdom that babies be exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of life. They say it may be in the child's best interest if parents introduce new foods and nutrients into the diet during that time.

Babies have a higher risk of iron deficiency anemia if they are exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of life than if they are introduced to solid foods during that time, said Dr. Mary Fewtrell, a consultant pediatrician at the Institute of Child Health at University College London, in a statement.

Babies who aren't introduced to solid foods before they are 6 months old are also at an increased risk for celiac disease and food allergies later in life, Fewtrell said.

Fewtrell and other doctors also say babies exclusively breast-fed for six months have a shorter window to get introduced to new tastes than babies fed solid foods in their first six months. And babies who grow up to dislike bitter-tasting foods, for example, may have trouble later eating green, leafy vegetables, the doctors said.

The World Health Organization made the global breast-feeding recommendation in 2001. Many western countries chose not to follow this recommendation, but the United Kingdom health minister said in 2003 that the UK would comply.

Fewtrell acknowledged that there are some circumstances under which it's smart to exclusively breast-feed for the baby's first six months of life. For example, in less-developed countries, breast milk is a good alternative to unclean water and unsafe weaning foods.

Pass it on: If women exclusively breast-feed their babies during the first six months of life, the babies are at an increased risk for allergies, anemia and distaste for leafy greens.

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Live Science Staff
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