All mothers out there are aware of the benefits that breastfeeding has for their baby and they're made aware of it pretty much all the time. But there are women who can't do that, and that is OK too. There are so many reasons why a woman chooses not to breastfeed, and those reasons are perfectly valid. How the baby gets milk should be the least of concerns — instead it should be that the baby gets a sufficient amount of milk in the first place. This why the Fed Is Best Foundation says WHO breastfeeding guidelines aren't good enough and every mother needs to take note.
The World Health Organization is a huge proponent for breastfeeding. According to WHO, breastfeeding is an "unequalled" way of providing food and nutrients for a baby. Because of this, the WHO recommends that exclusive breastfeeding for the baby's first six months of life is the "optimal way" of feeding infants. The guidelines then state that after six months, infants should receive "complementary foods" in addition to breastmilk for up to two years of age and beyond. There are four specific guidelines that WHO and UNICEF recommend to "establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding," according to WHO:
Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life
Exclusive breastfeeding — that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water
Breastfeeding on demand — that is as often as the child wants, day or night
No use of bottles, teats, or pacifiers
If you think these guidelines sound a little harsh, they kind of are — not every mother has the luxury of exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months or can produce enough breast milk to feed their child for that period of time. One organization, the Fed Is Best Foundation, agrees that the guidelines are not good enough. Instead, Fed Is Best believes that the concern should be about how the baby gets fed, rather than the baby being exclusively breast fed, according to The Bump. You know the guideline that states an infant should only receive breastmilk and nothing else? According to Fed Is Best, that can be a huge danger, especially if the baby is not getting enough food.
Fed Is Best experts said during a teleconference that relying on a strictly breast milk diet can "unknowingly malnourish a baby." Fed Is Best co-founder Dr. Christie del Castillo-Heygi said during the teleconference, according to The Bump:
Publicly acknowledging the common problem of insufficient breast milk and the importance of supplementation to protect the brain can prevent millions of complications, hospitalizations, and newborn injuries. Being fully fed is a basic human right that is not currently met by the standard of care.
The WHO met earlier in the month to revise their breastfeeding guidelines, according to Fed Is Best, but kept in the antiquated guideline that states a baby should not be given anything but breastmilk in the first 6 months of life, which was a key recommendation from their 1989 guidelines almost 30 years ago. The times have changed and science has drastically improved since then — therefore, Fed Is Best is calling on them to remove the guideline. Especially since, according to USA Today, data shows that no country in the world meets the WHO standards. There has to be a reason for that (maybe because exclusively breastfeeding for six months is pretty hard to do).
Fed is Best points out that the WHO officials have reported that they have not specifically studied the complications that arise when women exclusively breastfeed — and when a mom feels pressure to exclusively breastfeed, then their baby might be significantly underfed. This can be dangerous and lead to postpartum depression and feelings of inadequacy. Recent studies have found that formula is just as good as breastmilk, according to Jezebel. It is OK for a mom to give her baby supplemental formula or milk if she is failing to keep up with the demand of her child or because she has to go back to work and can't exclusively pump or breast feed her baby.
Fed Is Best believes that the WHO guidelines aren't good enough simply because they aren't comprehensive enough. If you agree with this, WHO wants to listen. Until Oct. 24 WHO is accepting comments and concerns about their updated guidelines from the public online. Fill out the form on their website to let them know that your opinion.
The pressure to exclusively breastfeed is dangerous. WHO's breastfeeding guidelines should reflect society today, not how some wish to see society.