Baby led weaning.

So there’s a new report out is there, that now says exclusive breast feeding until six months could be a problem.

I haven’t read the report. I’m not going to. I haven’t even read any of the newspaper articles about it. I’m not going to do that either. I just caught up on twitter that mothers, yet again, are spinning in circles, confused and demoralised by another batch of experts contradicting a previous batch of experts.

I can’t help feeling that it’s our reliance on experts that is a large part of the problem. They overrule our instincts, the things we learn from each other, the received wisdom that we could gather as a community. And, not to put too fine a point on it, a few too many of them have hidden agendas.

How many of these experts benefit from the behaviours that they are suggesting we follow? Ppl funded by babyfood companies trying to get parents to feed their babies earlier, for example? It’s like research into cloth nappies that decides that disposables are just as eco friendly, that oddly enough, is usually funded by disposable nappy makers.

Hm.

Do you know what? If you watch your baby carefully, I suspect they will usually let on when they are ready for solid food. If they can sit up unaided, and get food into their mouth, chew it and swallow, they are probably ready. For some babies this will be after 6 months. For some it will be around 6 months. And shock horror, for some it might be *before* six months.

I didn’t do baby purees with baby number 3. I did baby led weaning. She’s still breastfed too, at 14 months, and she was very nearly 6 months before I let her start stealing my food. The spooning stuff into her mouth didn’t last long, as she much prefers to finger food it herself, and I much prefer her to do it that way too.

And you know what else? She eats very nearly everything she can get her hands on. So far the things that have been rejected include tomatoes and olives, but the list of things she will eat is enormous.

Now, I’m not going to claim that is purely because she is breastfed and we’re letting her lead the way. But I am going to say I think it’s a contributory factor. I also want to say that this isn’t supposed to be a smug holier than though post, it’s supposed to be an exhortation to have a little faith in what you believe. If you believe that formula and purees are best for your baby, then you being happy about that is probably going to be the most important factor. If you want to breastfeed and let them steal food off your plate when they are ready, then that is going to work best for you.

What isn’t going to help is feeling guilty over trying to do the best for you and your family when the experts decide to tear up the rule book yet again. Take what they are saying with a pinch of salt, and do what makes most sense to you and the parents around you that you trust.

About Jax Blunt

I'm the original user, Jax Blunt I've been blogging for ten years, give or take, and if you want to know me, read me :)

Comments

  1. Sigh! And there was one thing I thought I was doing right. Damn!
    Still, couldn’t agree with you more. Unearthing those instincts and learning to trust them and be at peace with them has to be the way forward.
    .-= Lins´s last blog ..In which Dante Meets Eats an Indoor Firework =-.

  2. I can’t comment on weaning a breast fed baby but I do know that the whole wean at six months is as accurate as predicting when your baby will sit up, crawl, walk etc.

    Fortunately most of my health visitors have kids and promote looking for signs not age but I do know a number of 1st time mums who waited till 6 months to wean and shouldn’t have as they babies were miserably and not sleeping. As soon as they gave solids they have sleeping through the night happy babies.

    Geeky daughter was weaned at 5 and a bit months, Geeky son at 4 months.

    It is so difficult. On the one hand they need to give advice but I think the problem us that they are too prescriptive. Advice should be along the lines of, look for signs of being ready which will be no later than 6 months but if earlier than 4 months seek medical advice.

    Mums need advice, but they need advice on how to read their kids, what to look for but most of all that every child is different and will have different needs at different times. The only right way is the way that works for you, your family and child.

  3. I am really worried that this so called report will just be ammuniation for mums looking to wean as soon as possible
    .-= TheMadHouse´s last blog ..Let me introduce you to my Great God Daughter =-.

  4. I won’t give links, unless you want them, but you won’t be surprised to hear that 3 out of 4 of the researchers receive funding from the baby food industry, which is estimated to have lost about 34% of its income since the UK advice changed to 6 months exclusive BF.
    .-= Katy´s last blog ..Second- third- fourth- fifth days of Christmas =-.

  5. Wanted to write about this after hearing a big debate on the radio. Sadly haven’t had time but glad someone has picked it up and said some stuff that needed saying. Agree it’s really unhelpful and just adds confusion and doubt. Thanks for your common sense post.

  6. Whilst much of what you’ve said here is good, you are responding to the headless chickens who are running around in circles panicked by the agenda driven media, rather than what the experts (who as high-flying paediatricians and paediatric nutritionists really are the relevant scientific experts) actually said, and said in a rather different context to that of direct advice to parents.

    This is a matter of public interest, there is new data, there needs to be further research. That’s how science works.

    The work the experts have done was to improve the nutritional content of formula milk. Whilst you and I may disagree with the widespread use of formula milk, it’s a bit much to expect the industry to not use the relevant experts to make the stuff as good for babies as possible.

    Impugning the integrity of these researchers on zero evidence is just plain out of order.

    See also:

    Jan’s Friday night reading of the actual BMJ article over at SotP.
    The actual article: http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5955.full

  7. I haven’t read the article so can’t really comment either way about my views on it.

    What I will say, is my reasons for not reading it are bourne out of frustration and confusion from similar articles about what was best for expectant mothers when I was pregnant.

    It quite literally changed from week to week, to the point that my midwife couldn’t keep up with whether I should or shouldn’t eat peanuts, was or wasn’t supposed to drink alcohol, coffee, tea etc etc.

    In the end, I decided it was all piffle, I’m a sensible person, I’ll do what I think is best :0)

    Great post BTW, more common sense attitudes like yours is what we need.
    .-= Liz Burton´s last blog ..Suspicious Minds =-.

  8. Anna Martin says:

    There isn’t new data, it’s a review of an existing study. I agree that their request for further investigation is reasonable but it isn’t true that it’s new evidence; the last systematic review of many studies suggests 6 months but not earlier than 4 months, that isn’t contradicted by one study that finds some babies may be ready earlier than 6 months.

  9. @Jonathan Sambrook Pish! pointing out where scientists get their funding is perfectly acceptable. Being a ‘researcher’ isn’t some holy mission undertaken by the ethically pure. They’re just people, as capable of bias, dishonesty and rampant self interest as anyone else.

    Don’t just read their paper, look at the papers they reference and you’ll find that the conclusions they’re drawing are at best highly questionable and at worst down right dishonest.

  10. I have read the BMJ article. There is no new research. 3 of the 4 authors are funded by the baby food industry and are well known not to agree with current guidelines.

    UNICEF UK response here:

    http://www.babyfriendly.org.uk/pdfs/unicef_uk_response_to_BMJ_article_140111.pdf

    BMA response here:

    http://info.babymilkaction.org/node/321

    From the dawn of time until the 1920’s when formula became readily available babies started solids between 9 and 12 months. After formula milk was introduced these babies started dying so weaning was recommended at three months in a desperate attempt to keep them alive. Not surprisingly jars of baby puree appeared in the shops not long after that. It wasn’t long before the baby food and formula manufacturers bludgeoned the government into advising this for all babies.

    When are we going to stop taking advice from companies who make lots of money out of selling us rubbish?

    We need to educate society that those clever men in white coats that make formula and baby food do not know better than mums who were born with the necessary equipment.

    I’m pretty sure this is a reaction to the growing popularity of BLW (i.e. doing it the way nature intended like we use to). We obviously have these companies scared and they are protecting their profits the only way they know how. Using this kind of negative rhetoric in the press is the only way they can attack breastfeeding and recommend formula and early weaning as better.

    Excellent advice on introducing solids here:

    http://www.kellymom.com/nutrition/solids/delay-solids.html

  11. I find all this interesting in a detatched sort of way. I’m never going to have to worry about weaning of any sort (unless, by any freek chance my “baby” asks my advice in 20ish years…. but I doubt it!) but I do remember the angst of “getting it wrong” and wondering if every ailment Aprilia ever had was down to the fact that she had a mix of forumula and breast milk because I couldn’t give her enough or because, in a desperate attempt to keep her asleep and off me for more than a few hours I weened on the dot of 4 months… only to find a few years later that such early weaning was likely to have caused her indescribable damage…(and she still didn’t sleep anyway) It really is about time “experts” butted out and stopped causing mums more angst!

  12. What I don’t get is why weaning appears to be linked with giving solid food. Even if the baby is eating solid food at four months, you don’t start out giving him or her full meals and baby still needs milk for a long time yet.

    I’m interested to learn that (as I rather suspected) there were baby food/formula companies behind the news story. I was wondering if it was perhaps the EU or British Gov’t wanting to get babies weaned and Moms back to work right away. And I suppose that if you do need to get back to work asap, then it will be very helpful.

  13. Having a baby is a bit like home educating. Unless you’ve been around lots of Moms with babies and been interested in baby stories, you’re at least partly dependent on ‘experts’ telling you what should happen when. It isn’t until you’ve been doing it a few years that you start to relax and recognise the signals baby is making, or, in the case of HE, the signs that learning is happening. Some Moms take to both having babies and HEing like ducks to water. The rest of us take a little while to figure out how to listen to the children.

  14. I can’t see that it would make sense for our young to ‘need’ solid foods that they can’t actually eat in their natural state yet. Presumably, our milk should have all they need until they’re physically able to manage fruits/nuts/meat/whatever it is we imagine our ‘natural’diet might be. You don’t see cats rushing for the blender to whizz up the Whiskers for their kittens…

    But, on the whole, the amazing thing about humans is that we are incredibly adaptable and seem able to survive on a very wide range of foods. Apparently I was weaned from breast milk at three months onto watered down Carnation evaporated milk… Bizarre, but here I am to tell the tale.

    It probably makes little difference if people in this country shift their behaviour about by a few weeks. What is rather more dire is what happens in countries with dirty water and extreme poverty.

  15. @firebird:

    “pointing out where scientists get their funding is perfectly acceptable.”

    Quite, but you’ll note that I didn’t say that it wasn’t. It is relevant information, but it is not the prima facie evidence of corruption that some are using it to imply.

    “They’re just people, as capable of bias, dishonesty and rampant self interest as anyone else.”

    On the same basis they are also as capable of operating with integrity as anyone else is.
    .-= Jonathan Sambrook´s last blog ..Review of the BMJ article on exclusive breastfeeding =-.

  16. To be honest I always assume that what bloggers write in sponsored posts is what the sponsor wants rather than what the blogger thinks…..so it’s probably the same for researchers ;-)

    • The sponsors don’t tell me what they’d like me to write. The brief only includes the links and specific points. And then the major difference is that my posts are marked up front as sponsored.

  17. The report flags any relevant funding sources for the previous three years, not just for this report:

    Footnotes
    * Contributors and sources: All authors have expertise in infant and child nutrition and are, or have been, members of national and/or international advisory committees on infant and child nutrition. MF and AL performed the background research and all authors contributed to drafting and revising the paper. Sources of information are peer reviewed papers and policy documents in the public domain. MF is guarantor.

    * Competing interests: All authors have completed the Unified Competing Interest form at http://www.icmje.org/coi_disclosure.pdf (available on request from the corresponding author) and declare that no external funding was received in connection with the preparation of this manuscript; MF, AL, and DCW have performed consultancy work and/or received research funding from companies manufacturing infant formulas and baby foods within the past 3 years; their spouses, partners, or children have no relationships that may be relevant to the submitted work; and the authors have no non-financial interests that may be relevant to the submitted work.

    * Provenance and peer review: Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
    .-= Jonathan Sambrook´s last blog ..Review of the BMJ article on exclusive breastfeeding =-.

  18. I’ve been a bit bemused by this. Haven’t seen the paper but just the paper article just seemed to say that some babies maybe ready to try foods as well as breastmilk before the dot of 6 mnths, and also mentioned the concection to the formula milk cos. Well… yes *confused face*.

    If you’re baby starts eyeing up everything on your plate, and then starts trying to snatch stuff off your plate and put it their mouths – well, they’re likely over 4 mnths and near to 6 mnths anyway (in my experience anyhow). Combien this with not seeming to be so satisfied by nursing and waking again in the night (though bare in mind niether of these things may happen, also waking may be due to wonder week stuff or teething) then… well… you give them small pieces of non harmful food, don’t you?!

    Some of my babies have been ready just before 6mnths as the calandar says, some just after. They certainly don’t stop nursing, so weaning as in ‘not taking breast milk anymore’ dosn’t accur till a lot later.
    .-= mamacrow´s last blog .. =-.

  19. Thanks Jonathan, saved me a post. If it’s ok to infer corruption from authors of this report then it’s ok to assume sponsored bloggers are corrupt on the same basis. Or one gives both the benefit of the doubt and assume, as I do, that people act with integrity unless proof to the contrary.

  20. Jonathan, all Jax has done is ask the question about where the researchers get their funding. That seems fair, as is the requirement that they disclose when they do get money from interested parties.

    I can see nothing wrong with that. The question has been raised elsewhere and as far as I can see is perfectly legitimate.

    “Impugning the integrity of these researchers on zero evidence is just plain out of order.”

    Two words.

    Thalidomide. Tobacco.

  21. Some interesting comment in the BMJ on the original article.

    http://www.bmj.com/content/342/bmj.c5955.full/reply#bmj_el_248392

  22. Tim, are you arguing in favour of defamation of character without evidence?

    If the authors of the original article have a track record, then some investigative journalism would be in order. Unsubstantiated allegations are poor journalism.

    For me, this cynical line of reasoning detracts from the jolly sensible main point of Jax’s post.

    I’ve not said that the original authors are paragons of virtue, or even innocent in this particular matter. But until there are some solid grounds for doubting their integrity or the contents of their article are proved invalid by a credible source (see for example Chris’ previous comment), prematurely jumping to conclusions is unhelpful.

    I’d like to invoke a parallel of Godwin’s Law on your “two words”.
    .-= Jonathan Sambrook´s last blog ..After-school education =-.

  23. Mary Renfrew carefully goes through the paper pointing out where the methodology is flawed. She points out that some of their approaches do not do enough to protect scientific bias.

    She doesn’t just say ‘They took money from formula people so it *must* be crap'; she goes through it and explains why it is crap. Surely you can see the difference?

  24. But actually I think the ‘Nestle-supported’ reference was cheap. It didn’t need to be mentioned given the point she was making about that one specific paper was the same whoever had funded the study.

  25. Like Jonathan I have never said this paper was good or that the authors acting with integrity. I just said that I am assuming they are acting with integrity until evidence to the contrary.

    And I meant prevent not protect scientific bias.

  26. Yes, if she’s attempting to prove bias, of course mentioning bias is okay.

    Either the science is valid or it isn’t. Guilt-by-association doesn’t cut it. The throwaway mention of Nestlé doesn’t strengthen the case except in a polemical sense.
    .-= Jonathan Sambrook´s last blog ..After-school education =-.

  27. BTW, is there a correlate of Godwin’s Law for mentioning Godwin’s Law?
    .-= Jonathan Sambrook´s last blog ..After-school education =-.

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