About a decade ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised mothers to exclusively breastfeed – that is, nothing but human milk – their infants for the first 6 months of their lives.
They reissued that recommendation in a statement earlier this month – citing “optimal growth, development and health.”
The latest review of this evidence, they say, comes from a 2009 study in the Cochrane Library – which lists benefits of the exclusive 6 months compared with just 4:
But about a week ago, a new review in the British Medical Journal contradicts this guidance, saying that 4 months is best. On babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months, these authors say:
While mothers and mothers-to-be were still wading through the conflicting information, the Surgeon General issued a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding” last week.
In it, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin outlined steps to remove obstacles women might face. She encouraged more supportive families and communities, baby-adapted hospitals, properly trained clinicians and breastfeeding-friendly employers.
And here are some economic incentives according to the Call:
It also says that 3 out of 4 mothers start off breastfeeding, but only 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed for 6 months.
“Of course, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one,” Benjamin adds, “no mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”
To that end, informal breast-milk shares have popped up about the country.
But breast-milk-sharing isn’t encouraged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The use of donor milk, especially off the internet, according to the agency this past December, poses risk for the baby. This includes:
The alternative could be breast-milk banks – who screen donors and are sometimes state-regulated. There are currently 11 members of the Human Milk Banking Association of America.
Image: Queen Marie Casimire by Jerzy Siemiginowski-Eleuter via Wiki
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com