New guidelines are being introduced that reflect the slower growth rates of breastfed babies.
Using the new growth charts, more children will be classified as overweight.
Apparently, breastfeeding mothers often think their babies are underweight because of the old growth charts that were based on formula fed baby development. Given the UK’s recommendation that all babies breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life and an additional six months as food is introduced to their diet, the new growth charts will more accurately reflect children’s physical development. Breastfed babies gain weight more slowly than formula fed babes, and there is a difference of as much as 1 Kg in weight gain at one year of age. Dr Sheila Shribman, the UK government’s maternity tsar, explains:
Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. The new charts will not only provide more accurate measurements for infant growth of breastfed babies, but will also help healthcare professionals and parents to identify early signs of overweight or obesity and provide support.
Data from the World Health Organization’s 15-year study of 8,500 children from six countries was used to create the new growth charts. It is expected that the number of babies classified as overweight will double to 6% as a result of the new growth charts. The new charts are also expected to lessen the number of breastfed children that are classified for “failure to thrive” and given supplemental formula as a result.
England has a low rate of breastfeeding beyond six months. Eight out of ten mothers begin breastfeeding, a higher rate than in the US, but only 22% of mothers continue until their children are six months of age. Very few British mothers make it to the recommended age of one year for supplemental breastfeeding.