Health bosses have denied claims that babies should be introduced to solids before they are six-months-old, insisting breast milk provides all the required nutrients for babies up to this age.
Official UK guidelines state that women should breastfeed for half a year before starting to feed solids to their child, but a group of experts - led by a paediatrician from University College London’s Institute of Child Health - said waiting so long could expose babies to iron deficiencies and make them more prone to allergies.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) confirmed in 2001 that its global recommendation was for young babies to be breastfed for six months.
“Many Western countries, including 65% of European member states and the United States, elected not to follow this recommendation fully, or at all,” the authors of a new report said.
“However, in 2003 the health minister announced that the United Kingdom would comply.”
The recommendation from the WHO is based “largely” on a review of 16 studies, including seven from developing countries, which indicated that babies just given breast milk for half a year experienced no growth problems and had fewer injections.
But another review of 33 studies found “no compelling evidence” to not introduce solids at four to six months, the experts said.
Some studies have also shown breastfeeding for six months does not give babies all the nutrition they need.