Advice on why current baby growth charts are being revised to include breastfed rather than bottle fed babies.
In light of recent WHO recommendations the 'powers that be' are currently deciding whether to revise the growth charts currently used to monitor infant development.
It is on the basis of these charts that healthcare professionals advise parents as to whether their baby's are gaining weight at a healthy rate. However, recent research based on a Europe-wide study of infant growth has suggested that these charts prompt overfeeding that could be setting children up for obesity in later life.
The research suggested that babies fed on formula milk tend to gain weight far quicker than those fed exclusively on breast milk. This is thought to be because the high level of protein found in formula milk increases production of insulin - the hormone that encourages fat storage. As the original charts were constructed in the 80's and based on largely bottle fed babies, concerns have been raised as to whether these charts are actually encouraging mothers to overfeed their babies.
The new charts recommended by the WHO are based on average weight gain of 8,000 'healthy' European children raised in 'optimal conditions' and exclusively breastfed. They are designed to provide a new guide as to the rate at which babies should put on weight rather than how the majority currently do. The difference between the current and proposed charts show over 1lb difference in what they consider to be a healthy weight for a one year old baby.
The WHO have been campaigning to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding for some time now because of the benefits to infant development it provides. They hope that by introducing these new growth charts fewer mothers will resort to supplementing or replacing breast milk with formula because they believe their baby's aren't gaining sufficient weight.
The research has shown that although breastfed babies gain weight quickly in the first few weeks of life, this slows and they gradually become leaner than their bottle fed counterparts. This doesn't mean that they aren't thriving, as breast milk has been linked to lower risk childhood illness and reduced incidences of disease and obesity in later life.
As infancy is the only time where diet can be completely controlled and tailored for optimum nutrition this study and associated recommendations highlight just how fragile this balance can be. The researchers are now following the children studied through to school age to see whether this high-protein formula associated weight gain has any definite long term impact on infant health.
If this is found to be the case lets hope that more information is provided about optimum weight gain for both bottle and breast fed babies so that parents can really make an informed choice when deciding what's best for their little one.
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