How Long to Suckle?

Investigators review and dispute WHO breastfeeding recommendation

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) In 2001, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that mothers exclusively breast feed their babies for the first six months. However, a new review disputes the WHO recommendation.

The study is published online at

According to Dr. Mary Fewtrell, a consultant pediatrician at the UCL Institute of Child Health, and her team, exclusive breastfeeding during early life is highly beneficial to the baby. Yet, doing so for the entire first six months may be damaging to children's health as they are not introduced to more nutrient-rich foods.

Past studies have shown that breastfeeding holds many benefits for infants, children, and mothers. In spite of that, statistics from the CDC show low rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months as well as 12 months.

The WHO's recommendation is mainly based on evidence that exclusively breast-fed babies have fewer infections and no growth problems. In addition, exclusive breastfeeding is especially favorable in less developed areas of the world where the risk of food-borne illness poses a great threat to infants. However, Fewtrell and colleagues believe that mothers in more developed countries with clean water and safer foods should start introducing their children to solid foods before six months as babies who are exclusively breast fed are at greater risk of iron deficiency, celiac disease and food allergies if they are not introduced to certain solid foods.

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Review Date: 
January 16, 2011
Last Updated:
March 1, 2011