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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Weaning babies off breast early may be beneficial

14th January 2011

Researchers have said women who breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of their child's life may not be providing their babies with the healthiest option.


The team wrote in the British Medical Journal that babies who were fed on the breast might benefit from being provided with solid food at an earlier stage.

The researchers, from University College London, said babies could be weaned from four months, although current guidelines recommend this occurs at six months of age.

The researchers suggested that later weaning could lead to an increase in food allergies and iron deficiency levels.

The research team was headed by Dr Mary Fewtrell, a paediatrician from the University of London Institute of Child Health.

A decade ago the World Health Organisation released worldwide guidelines which recommended that babies were breastfed for six months.

The researchers said they were in favour of the advice for developing countries, where safe water and foods were more difficult to find, and infant mortality was higher.

However, the team went on to say: "Many western countries, including 65% of European member states and the US, elected not to follow this recommendation fully, if at all." In 2003 a MP said the UK would abide by the recommendation.

The WHO advice came from a review of 16 studies which suggested that babies who were breastfed had a lower rate of infection and growth problems.

Another review of 33 studies discovered "no compelling evidence" why solid foods should not be introduced at four to six months.

Dr Fewtrell added: "When you look at the figures, there are a lot of babies being weaned before six months anyway - and that's probably the most important thing in terms of hard evidence."


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