Chatting last night with my beautiful daughter-in-law about new recommendations to introduce solids at 4 months - hence today’s blog. Interestingly, World Health Organisation still says: ‘Exclusive breastfeeding - defined as no other food or drink, not even water, except breast milk (including milk expressed or from a wet nurse) for 6 months of life.’ Yet Australian Society Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA), no doubt in a genuine attempt to reduce the ever-increasing incidence of allergies in children, have taken some liberties with WHO’s guidelines.
There is no doubt that allergies are on the rise, no doubt they may in some instances be life-threatening, in others debilitating, certainly always stressful for both the child and the family - but ASCIA has the wrong end of the stick. In suggesting ‘solids at about 6 months, but NOT before 4 months (which clearly like a game of Chinese Whispers is being translated by mums to mean ‘solids at 4 months’), they’ve overlooked some of the most exciting and relevant research that shifts the reasons for the allergy epidemic (and indeed for a great deal of chronic ill-health) to the ill-health of the human microbiome - that's the ninety percent of us that is bacterial!
YIKES, how much more evidence do we need? Have ASCIA seen the wonderful documentary Microbirth? Are they paying attention to the latest research? They need to take a long hard look at the evidence which is pouring from institutions (including those involved in immunotoxicology) around the world and review their Guidelines. Of course one of the primary recommendations - to reduce the incidence of Caesarean sections to no more than the modest 10-15 percent, which since 1985 the international healthcare community has considered the ideal rate in any region for any reason - would strike at the heart of the industry that has grown up around birthing.
But back to the rise and rise of allergies. Rodney Dietert, Professor of Immunotoxicology, at Cornell University says that the bacteria with which we, as humans have a symbiotic relationship (also termed our “microbiome”), turns us into a “super organism”. Now, new research into the critical role of that microbiome indicates that the manner in which we birth a baby has a profound impact on the microbiome's proper establishment and subsequently on the long term health of the individual (including the potential for development of allergies and a great deal more). Dietert writes “The worldwide emergence of an epidemic of chronic diseases has caused increased healthcare costs, increased premature mortality and reduced quality of life for a majority of the world’s population. In addition, it has raised questions concerning the interactions between humans and their environment and potential imbalances. Mis-regulated inflammation, a host defense-homeostasis disorder, appears to be a key biomarker connecting a majority of chronic diseases. We consider the apparent contributors to this disorder that promote a web of interlinked co-morbid conditions. Three key events are suggested to play a role: (1) altered epigenetic programming (AEP) that may span multiple generations, (2) developmental immunotoxicity (DIT), and (3) failure to adequately incorporate commensal microbes as a newborn (i.e. the incomplete self)"
Sadly, all ASCIA has to say about pre and probiotic products (as a surrogate during pregnancy and breastfeeding) is years behind the most current research, their recommendations only likely to compound (via solids introduced to an immature immune and digestive system) an already overwhelming problem. For more on restoring the health of the microbiome - before conception, during pregnancy and breastfeeding (and particularly in the case of a C-section or formula feeding) search my multiple previous blog posts. For recommendations on high potency probiotic supplement click here. Finally, my recommendations for infant feeding are simply to make things as easy as possible for the whole family. Unrestricted breastfeeding (food and drink) for at least six months, then to family food when your baby indicates an interest, which will probably be when he has some teeth, can feed himself with appropriate finger foods and may be well past the age of 6 months in some infants. But if you choose to follow these guidelines you may never have to mash, puree or spoon feed! Lots more in Healthy Parents Healthy Toddler.