Should we be advising our mums to breastfeed exclusively for six months?
The WHO guidelines were based on two small controlled trials and 17 observational studies. These studies showed that exclusive breastfeeding for six months protected against gastrointestinal infection, although there was no difference in infections in children who were fed hygienically prepared food.
There was no protection shown for respiratory infection or atopic disease and exclusively breastfed infants were more likely to be iron deficient.
Personally, I have recently dealt with two mums who have followed this guidance and ended up struggling to get their babies to eat solid food or take a bottle at all.
Both were exhausted with the demands of breastfeeding and their partners were frustrated that they were unable to share the load.
I agree wholeheartedly that mums should be encouraged as much as possible to breastfeed and that this WHO guideline may have a place in third world situations, but is it relevant in 2007 in the UK?
Dr Gill Sellick Stafford, Staffordshire.