When to wean?

February 5th, 2011 | Filed Under: Nutrition in the news
In the last couple of weeks the media has been reporting on an article that was written in the British Medical Journal about when to start weaning babies on to solid food, and away from exclusive breast feeding. The suggestion made by this article is that it may be better to wean at 4 months as opposed to the current governmental recommendations of 6 months (made in 2001). The report was written by experts on the subject but it was not a scientific research paper; it was an “analysis” on the current guidelines and research. First of all I think it is good that guidelines are always being questioned, because science moves so fast, opinions change and differing results are found all the time. Science is only the knowledge that has been acquired up until now, it’s not a definitive answer. And these recent comments are far from conclusive, rather just some opinions based on the current evidence. But do parents really need an answer on when exactly to wean their babies?

The Infant Feeding Survey published in 2007 found the guidelines for weaning at 6 months are rarely followed by parents anyway, as less that 1% of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding their babies at 6 months. Parents wean when they feel their baby is ready. Maybe the baby starts to show an interest in foods or maybe their parents feel it’s time for their child to experience the differing texture of foods and start to experiment. Maybe they feel their breast milk is no longer enough to give their baby the energy and nutrients it needs. It’s different for everyone.

Is this particular story being thrown around our newspapers and TV screens really providing us with any new or helpful information on bringing up our children? It’s good to know what is going on in science and also what the current opinions on different aspects of science are, but this story is not really shedding any new light on the current research, and it may be something that parents figured out ages ago. More to the point, does it and should it make that much difference to what individual parents do?

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