Mellow Mummy: STOP PRESS: It's OK To Wean Before 6 Months : Taking life as it comes...

Friday 14 January 2011

STOP PRESS: It's OK To Wean Before 6 Months

Did you wean your children before 6 months? Did it leave you with a sense of guilt that you hadn't followed the current NHS guidelines? Well, news out yesterday suggested that all that guilt was for nothing and that weaning before 6 months might well be the healthiest thing to do for a breastfed baby.

In this article from the British Medical Journal, scientists ask whether now is the right time to re-assess the governments current advice (which is to postpone weaning until 6 months). The current advice is based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation who claim that a child who is exclusively breast-fed for the first 6 months is less likely to suffer from infection.

The report shows that there is evidence to suggest that early weaning can promote long term health such as reduced risk of obesity, cancer and cardiovascular problems, and that leaving it until 6 months may increase the risk of food allergies and iron deficiencies. The paper calls for the government to re-assess their stance on baby nutrition.

When Lara was around 3 months old, my mum, mother-in-law and some of my older female friends started asking me when I would wean Lara, as, in their day, the advice had been to wean at 4 months. I had been given all the leaflets from my NCT instructor and my health visitor that told me to hold off until 6 months so I was left with conflicting thoughts on when to start. The look of 'doom' on my otherwise-mellow midwife's face when she handed me the leaflet was enough to scare me into submission.

In the end, the decision was entirely driven by my maternal instincts. Lara was hungry, it was simple. By 3 months old I was struggling to keep up with her appetite for breast milk and was having to supplement her enormous diet with infant formula for my own sanity. During meal times she would stare longingly at our food. Maybe it was because Lara was able to sit upright from a very young age, maybe it was because her ability to grab and hold was improving, or maybe it was just because I KNEW that it was the right time but I decided to start weaning Lara when she was 18 weeks.

And now look at her – she eats food that many grown-ups would be too scared to try (home-made lamb biryani, chicken makhani and rice anyone?) and is capable of eating with a fork and spoon when she chooses. I have no problems feeding Lara and I am convinced that our approach to weaning has helped her socially, physically and in terms of health. It remains to be seen whether she benefits from the long-term gains that the report suggests.

So, what about you? Would you make a different decision about weaning if you could do it again?
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