A recent analysis published in the British Medical Journal questioning the current World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for six months of exclusive breastfeeding, and no added solid foods, is drawing strong criticism from breastfeeding.
Critics raise several issues in questioning the article.
- The piece is not a scientific study or a comprehensive review of the existing literature, but an “analysis” based upon the authors review of selected past research. No methodological details are given by the authors on how they decided to include studies, or standards of their critique.
- Three of the four authors of the article receive funding from the baby food industry, but such potential conflict of interest was not declared in the article.
- Current recommendation is based upon a systematic analysis of research published as a Cochrane review in 2002 and updated in 2006. This important study compared the health of infants breastfed for six months to those breastfed for three-to-four months. The research found that the science showed significant advantages to the longer breastfeeding period.
- The health risks of early introduction of complementary foods have been known for many years. The evidence supports introducing food when a baby is developmentally ready at around 6 months. Introducing food or infant formula before that time increases the risk of infections, including flu. Because of this risk, the World Health Assembly adopted a Resolution in 1994 that complementary feeding should not be be begun until 6 months.