It’s always been promoted that breastfeeding is best for babies, and moreso with exclusive breastfeeding(no water or other liquids aside from breast milk).
A new study from the University College London’s Institute of Child Health suggests that infants could become iron deficient and may be at higher risk for allergies if they are only fed breast milk.
There are many benefits to exclusive breastfeeding; from protection against gastrointestinal diseases, pneumonia, neonatal sepsis, as well as reduced mortality from diarrhea and other infant infections. Breast milk also provides much needed energy and nutrients for malnourished children.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), optimal breastfeeding and complimentary feeding practices could save the lives of 1.5 million children under five each year. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended in 2001 that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
This recommendation by the WHO “rested largely” on 16 studies, seven of which came from developing nations. According to these studies, babies exclusively breastfed experienced fewer infections and had no growth impediments. However, 33 studies could not find “compelling evidence” to not start babies on solids at four to six months.
Some studies even show that breastfeeding does not give babies sufficient nutrition.
According to one US study in 2007, babies exclusively breastfed are more prone to developing anemia and allergies than those who started on solids at four to six months.
Despite their claims, the authors of the study, led by Dr. Mary Fewtrell, agree that exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months is a sound recommendation for developing countries, which suffer from higher mortality rates due to infection.
In developed countries, on the other hand, exclusive breastfeeding may trigger “adverse health outcomes and may ‘reduce the window for introducing new tastes.’”