Another study, more confusion

A Yahoo news report on a UK study of current guidelines that mothers breastfeed exclusively until babies are 6 months old began: “Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months is not necessarily best for a baby’s health, British researchers said Friday, calling into question advice given to new mothers.”

I teach breastfeeding and have long been advocating exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months (based on the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics). However, when new evidence comes to light, it should be considered… right?

Well, yes and no. Certainly, professionals like myself should read and consider new studies so we can present up-to-date information to clients and students. But there are deeper questions: How much should parents read and study about health-related issues? How thoroughly should they seek to “review the literature” on infant feeding, childhood sleep, adolescent depression? To what extent should parents seek out and rely on experts, and to what extent should they become their own experts?

The answer, I believe, will be different for everyone. Being well-informed is part of being a responsible citizen and parent. But in the age of Google and Wikipedia, you can sometimes have too much of a good thing. Trying to reach a definitive conclusion about which practices are healthful and which are harmful may leave you in a sobbing heap on the floor.

So take this new study–and all studies–in context. It is probably not the definitive answer about when babies should start solids. Also remember the many things that once were considered just fine (my mother smoked cigarettes and drank martinis while pregnant) and now are known to be detrimental.

As a parent, you do the best you can at the time with the information you have. That’s pretty much all you can hope for.

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