Following the latest World Health Organisation guidance, the Department of Health has issued a new recommendation to support women breastfeeding, as part of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2003.
The new recommendation states that: “Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant’s life as it provides all the nutrients a baby needs.”
There are proven health benefits to breastfeeding for both child and mother in the short and long term. Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of gastro-enteritis and respiratory and ear infections. There is some evidence that long term breastfeeding may help mothers lose the excess weight they gain during pregnancy and children who are breastfed may be at lower risk of becoming obese later in childhood. Also the risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer in mothers is reduced the longer they breastfeed. Key professional bodies such as the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association and the Royal College of Midwives have given their support to the new recommendation.
Public Health Minister Hazel Blears MP said, “We want to give a clear and consistent message to mothers, health professionals, and the general public. Breastfeeding for the first six months provides the best start for babies. It establishes a foundation for improving short and long-term health and in so doing can help to reduce health inequalities. We want to support women in their decision to breastfeed and help them continue to do so. This recommendation is part of that commitment.”
Read the ABM’s NBAW statement on exclusive breastfeeding – the oldest baby food on Earth and still fresh! If you’d like to send us your experiences of exclusive breastfeeding and introducing solids aound 6 months, we’d love to include them in Your Experiences or our magazine.