Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The World Health Organization in Geneva insists that its 10-year-old worldwide guidelines encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed babies for six months still stand.
The WHO issued a statement after the BMJ (British Medical Journal) published a study 14 January questioning the wisdom of applying the guidelines in developed as well as developing countries.
Britain adoped the WHO guidelines in 2003 but two years later only 1 percent of parents were following the guidelines, according to the BMJ study authors.
They agree that “substantial evidence indicates that early nutrition has profound implications for long term health, by programming aspects of subsequent cognitive function, obesity, risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and atopy”, but they argue that the WHO guidelines should be reviewed again in the light of new evidence.
They point in particular to a December 2009 Scientific Opinion (review of current literature) published by the European Food Safety Authority Journal.
Its review team concluded: “The Panel has focussed its evaluation on data from developed countries.On the basis of present knowledge, the Panel concludes that the introduction of complementary food into the diet of healthy term infants in the EU between the age of 4 and 6 months is safe and does not pose a risk for adverse health effects (both in the short-term, including infections and retarded or excessive weight gain, and possible long-term effects such as allergy and obesity).
The WHO argues that the latest systemic review of the evidence, published in 2009, supports the WHO recommendations. Systemic reviews play a key role in evidence-based medical recommedations. The 2009 review, published by the Cochrane Library, included “two controlled trials and 18 other studies conducted in both developed and developing countries,” notes the WHO.
“The systematic review’s findings suggest that exclusive breastfeeding of infants with only breast milk, and no other foods or liquids, for six months has several advantages over exclusive breastfeeding for 3-4 months followed by mixed breastfeeding.”