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WHO and the giant babies

An article in the Sunday Times yesterday (23 April 2006) suggest that the World Health Organisation have finally woken up to the message "breast is best".


For years breastfeeding mothers have been placed under immense pressure with claims that their babies are underdeveloped. For many this has led to guilt and feelings of failure - hardly the recipe to encourage breastfeeding. Now the WHO have publicly announced that the weight targets used to measure a baby’s' development are wrong. Formula fed babies were used to compile the chart, however these children are likely to be heavier. Brest fed babies gain weight more slowly and this has been shown to lead to better regulation of energy intake, and fewer long term health problems, including lower rates of childhood obesity and diabetes.

Thankfully Newport has taken a lead with a dedicated team (Breastfeeding Promotion Group) who have run breast feeding promotion initiatives to encourage breast feeding as well as supporting mothers practically and emotionally. Hopefully the Government will move to support breast feeding mothers by providing accurate information to G.Ps and health visitors



Mothers got wrong advice for 40 years

Sarah-Kate Templeton, Medical Correspondent

The Sunday Times, April 23, 2006


BREAST-FEEDING mothers have been given potentially harmful advice on infant nutrition for the past 40 years, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has admitted.

Charts used in Britain for decades to advise mothers on a baby's optimum size have been based on the growth rates of infants fed on formula milk.

The organisation now says the advice given to millions of breast-feeding mothers was distorted because babies fed on formula milk put on weight far faster.

These breast-feeding mothers were wrongly told that their babies were underweight and were advised, or felt pressured, to fatten them up by giving them formula milk or extra solids.

Health experts believe the growth charts may have contributed to childhood obesity and associated problems such as diabetes and heart disease in later life. A government study has found that more than a quarter of children in English secondary schools are clinically obese, almost double the proportion a decade ago.

This week, the WHO will publish new growth standards based on a study of more than 8,000 breast-fed babies from six countries around the world. They will say the optimum size is that of a breast-fed baby.

The move will put pressure on British doctors to replace charts which, for the last four decades, have taken into account the growth patterns of bottle-fed babies.

Professor Tim Cole, of the Institute of Child Health at University College London, said: "We should change to a growth chart based on breast-fed babies. During their first year they do not put on as much weight as those fed on formula milk.

Breast-fed babies are less likely to be fat later in life and to develop complications such as diabetes and heart disease."

Six years ago, Cole developed an alternative chart based on breast-fed babies but it has never been endorsed by the British medical establishment. The Child Growth Foundation, a UK charity, campaigns for the adoption of Cole's chart.

The foundation claims breast-fed babies are, on average, at 22lb at 12 months, about 1lb lighter than those fed solely on formula milk. It is thought that breast-fed babies grow more slowly in the first year because they control the rate at which they feed, rather than being tied to their parents' notion of meal times.

Mercedes de Onis, who co- ordinates WHO child growth standards, said: "Breast-fed babies appear to self-regulate their energy intake to lower levels. Breast-fed babies have different metabolic rates and different sleeping patterns.

Formula-fed babies seem to have higher intakes of energy and, as a result, are heavier."

The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned that being overweight as a baby is a key early risk factor for heart disease and diabetes.

The babies who were the models for the new WHO standards were selected for good health. They were all breast-fed, their mothers did not smoke and they received good health care.

The WHO says babies should be fed solely on breast milk for up to six months. In Britain, fewer than 10% of babies are getting only breast milk by this age.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is to meet this summer to discuss the new WHO standards.

The Department of Health said: "Once WHO publishes the new growth charts we will assess the need for revisions to the UK growth charts."



To find out more about the Newport Breastfeeding Promotion Group, or if you have any suggestions on how to prmote breastfeeding telephone 01633 238170 or write to Julia Osmond at National Public Health Service for Wales, St. Woolos Hospital, 131 Stow Hill, Newport, NP20 4SZ. For further information on breastfeeding contact the National Childbirth Trust (www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com), La Leche League (www.laleche.org.uk, or the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (www.abm.me.uk).