Today is my day to write about headlines from the news apparently.
My friend Claire mentioned on her Facebook a couple days ago that a newspaper in England (where her family lives) ran an article about why you should NOT breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. While reading news articles on Google, I came across something similar in the L.A. Times. I assume that the small group of experts quoted in this article from the Times are the same ones from the article Claire's father told her about. Luckily for me, the link to the actual article from the British Medical Journal was in the Time article, so I could go straight to the source.
The article does not say that you should not breastfeed at all. Good start. Breastfeeding exclusively for six months is associated with no apparent growth deficits, although infants who are breastfed exclusively for that long have lower iron levels. Children who are breastfed exclusively for six months have lower risk of pnuemonia, ear infections and stomach problems. I liked that the study pointed out that children who have been switched over to formula were more likely to be admitted to the hospital with infections than those who were started on solids early. The possible concerns from the study are that waiting longer to introduce solids can lead to higher incidence of food allergies and celiac disease, along with iron deficiency. The research itself is actually very good. The article summarized the information well and looked at both sides. It's always good to go to the source if you can, because the media tends to sensationalize information.
Now for my own personal experience, which obviously is not going to be everyone's. I breastfed exclusively for six months. Raegan didn't have a drop of solid food until her sixth month birthday. She never had formula. Raegan doesn't have any food allergies (or food aversions like the article also suggests may happen) and at her one year blood draw she wasn't anemic. I'm not saying, "Well my baby is fine, so that means all babies are fine." Wouldn't that contradict what I just said in my previous post? :) My pediatrician noted that since Raegan wasn't really all that interested in solids (espeically iron fortified cereals) until she was 8 or 9 months, that I should be giving her a multivitamin with iron to combat anemia. Which is exactly what I did. So there's one way to combat the worry of iron deficiency from breastfeeding exclusively.
I don't know what the right answer is. One pediatrician in our practice says to wait until babies are six months old to introduce solids because of how it can affect future obesity rates. Another says you can start at four to six months, but not before four. (Which is what this article is saying.) For me, I felt best waiting until six months. For other parents, they may not feel so strongly. I guess the point of this post is that it's always a good idea to go to the original source of information if at all possible. The title "Breast May Not Be Best for the First Six Months of Life" from the L.A. Times article is kind of misleading, if you ask me. If you go to the original journal article, it's pretty clear that breastfeeding is still preferred over formula feeding. Which I agree with 100%! :)