It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and a new report out from The Global Breastfeeding Collective finds that as a planet, we’re not doing so well when it comes to exclusive breastfeeding goals.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding (meaning nothing other than breastmilk given to baby) for the first 6 months of life.
Breastfeeding, which helps lower infant mortality rates and increases optimal development in infants, also brings huge economic benefits to families and the countries they reside in.
But currently none of the countries evaluated – rich or poor – are doing enough to help encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months.
A few sobering statistics from the report:
- Only 40% of infants are exclusively breastfed for 6 months per the WHO recommendations
- Increasing that to 50% by 2025 would save the lives of more than 500,000 young children
- Highest exclusive BF rates at 6 months are in Rwanda and Burundi at 87 and 83%, respectively
- Lowest exclusive BF rates at 6 months are in Chad and Djibouti at 0 and 1%, respectively
Here in the US, only 25% of babies are exclusively breastfed.
Authors of the report recommend a number of ways to increase global breastfeeding rates. These include cracking down on advertising of infant formula which supplants breastfeeding and advocating for paid maternity leave for parents.
To learn more about the positive impact that breastfeeding can have on individual children, their larger families and communities and countries, check out the UNICEF page that promotes exclusive breastfeeding here.
There are a lot of ways to feed a baby…and one of the more popular approaches is modeled on the philosophy called baby-led weaning. With baby-led weaning, you bypass spoon-feeding of pureed food and encourage babies to self-feed age appropriate foods.
Although the practice of allowing a baby to self-feed has been around for generations, the term was only recently coined by British feeding expert and author of the Baby-Led Weaning Book, Gill Rapley, PhD. Proponents of this approach say it encourages independence, helps babies respond to their hunger and fullness cues and decreases picky eating later in life.
But as with any claim you want to make in the health and wellbeing space…you better have some data to back it up!
A new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics found that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding resulted in children who had less food fussiness (i.e., picky eating) – a finding also replicated in previous studies. This new study also found that these self-fed babies also did not exhibit any signs of growth faltering – meaning that a baby-led approach to feeding can likely meet a healthy baby’s nutrition needs.
Some proponents of the baby-led approach to feeding maintain that it leads to healthier weight and can help prevent overweight and obesity down the line (compared to spoon-feeding). This particular study indicated that a baby-led approach to complementary feeding does not appear to reduce risk for overweight compared with traditional feeding practices (although it didn’t increase risk of underweight either!)
The study was part of the 2-year Baby-Led Introduction to Solids (BLISS) randomized clinical trial and it included 206 women followed from pregnancy in New Zealand. Although this particular study was small, it is an important contribution to the growing body of literature that supports a baby-led approach to feeding as a viable and safe alternative to spoon-feeding.
For years the medical community maintained that delaying the introduction of potentially allergenic foods might help prevent food allergy. But a new body of literature indicates that the opposite might actually be true: early introduction (at less than one year of life) might actually be protective against later food allergy.
A meta-analysis published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 146 previously conducted studies that analyzed over 200,000 children. The researchers found that compared to later introduction of the respective foods:
- Introduction of peanuts between 4-11 months resulted in a 30% reduced risk of peanut allergy
- Introduction of eggs between 4-6 months resulted in a 70% reduced risk of egg allergy
Of course some precautions still need to be taken:
- Parents and caregivers of a baby who already has a food allergy or food-related eczema should take additional precautions
- Parents and caregivers of a baby who is at high risk for developing food allergy (usually because of established food allergy in other family members) should seek additional advice from their primary caregiver
For more information on food allergy visit the Food Allergy Resource and Education (FARE) website.