The Mother Magazine, Editorial
Issue 27, May/Jun 2008
A time to wean, by Veronika Sophia Robinson
Many a lactation consultant or counsellor uses the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) breastfeeding guidelines as part of her battle cry. It states: “Exclusively breastfeed for six months, and then continue breastfeeding well into, and beyond, the second year of life.” It has become one of those statements that’s been parroted around the globe without people actually stopping to give conscious thought to what it means, and the implications of following such a statement.
I have deliberately weaned myself from using WHO’s guideline, because I believe it isn’t adequate for fully meeting a child’s needs. Its official advice is distinctly flawed.
If the World Health Organisation says you can start weaning at six months, it must be right. Sadly, most women take official information from apparently reputable sources, and consider it gospel. After all, why would you question the World Health Organisation? This omnipotent power surely knows more than a mother’s instinct.
As with the UK’s Department of Health breastfeeding policy, such things are usually drawn up by people who don’t actually have experience of breastfeeding, and certainly don’t have an in depth knowledge of a child’s brain development, or how the immune system develops; why the heart cells of the baby depend on the mother exclusively breastfeeding on cue for at least nine months; or the emotional needs, and many other factors which are dependent on exclusive breastfeeding for optimal development. Very often, the people who provide such important information in policy making are the ones whose own education on infant nutrition has been heavily influenced by the commercial baby food sector.
I firmly believe the World Health Organisation needs exposing for its limp breastfeeding policy. At these highest levels of medical ‘power’, information trickles down which can make or break a society. Following WHO’s breastfeeding guidelines is humanity’s path to self-destruction. Sadly, four out of every five babies in the UK don’t even meet these flimsy guidelines.
I can’t let another year go by without challenging this standard information, which gets repeated ad nauseam. For example, why does WHO recommend six months as the time for exclusive breastfeeding? Where is the scientific, medical, anthropological or psychological basis for such important information? There is none. At six months of age, we’re told (repeatedly ~ and especially by the artificial milk companies) that a baby is no longer receiving an adequate amount of iron from his or her mother’s breast milk. Indeed, well-known children’s cookbook author, Annabel Karmel, recently stated that babies should be weaned at four (4!!) months of age, and fed beef and fish, as they have adequate iron levels!
How bizarre that Mother Nature would suddenly drop off the iron in a mother’s milk at a time when the baby’s body isn’t capable of optimally digesting anything other than breast milk. Nature isn’t stupid. She has a clear timetable of infant and child development. She wants us to exclusively breastfeed for at least nine months, for many reasons.
Clearly, whoever put together the WHO guidelines doesn’t know an awful lot about when the digestive enzymes in the body develop ~ that is, at NINE months of age, not six. We see evidence of Nature’s timetable not just in the way the digestive enzymes don’t develop until then, but also in the way the heart takes nine months to fully synchronise with the mother’s heart ~ the latter can’t happen if breastfeeding is replaced with other foods or bottle-feeding.
Our breasts are right next to the heart. Mother Nature planned it this way so our pulsations could synchronise. All mothers need this in order to bond with their babies fully. All babies need this to come fully Earthside. This must be constantly repeated during the external gestation phase (nine months). The baby’s heart requires this experience to be brought into life. The stress created to the infant if this does not happen involves the release of cortisol, which is extremely toxic. The neural pathways suffer irreversible damage from excess cortisol. Mother Nature hasn’t planned for failure. She hasn’t planned for us heeding the advice of the WHO or male-run governments or ill-informed doctors, midwives or health visitors.
Artificially created milk contains acres of iron, we’re told, so your baby won’t miss out. The reason companies put so much iron in fake milk isn’t because the baby needs a huge amount, but because, unlike the bio-available iron in breast milk, iron in formula isn’t easily absorbed by the baby’s body. By loading up fake milk with synthetic iron, the manufacturers are hoping ‘some’ of it will be absorbed.
Never underestimate the power of advertising to undermine a woman’s success and confidence at breastfeeding. Ads are deliberately designed to make a woman feel inadequate. If you care to dig a little deeper, you’ll find WHO’s information on iron levels was funded by no less than Nestle ~ the world’s largest producer of infant foods. Am I surprised? No.
Do a little more digging and you’ll find babies who exclusively breastfeed for at least seven months (that is, one month longer than the WHO recommendations) are babies with iron stores for life! Why isn’t this information ~ which has life-long health implications ~ getting out to the masses? Is it just me, or do you think women (and their blessed babies) are being duped all the way to the artificial milk companies’ off-shore bank accounts?
When WHO states “breastfeed well into, and beyond, the second year of life”, it is failing to give out very important, life-altering information. It’s almost as if, according to WHO, once you’ve ‘done your time’ with six months, the final weaning age doesn’t matter. I strongly disagree. Cultures which breastfeed for 2.5 years, or longer, are more peaceful and have significantly reduced levels of violence and depression. By weaning our children before this age, we greatly increase their chances of violence ~ violence to self, to society and to the Earth. There is major brain development happening between the age of two and two and half which can make or break us as potentially peaceful, loving and contented beings. Nature requires that breastfeeding continues through this THIRD year of life, because many of the synapses in the brain are still being formed, and rely on not only the superior ingredients in breast milk, but the physiological aspects of affectionate mother-love. WHO must be transparent, and state categorically that breastfeeding should not end before 2.5 years.
Why does WHO encourage premature weaning ~ something which has the potential to sabotage not only an individual, but the whole of humanity? Is it any coincidence that the World Health Organisation is actively looking for ways to reduce the human population? Call me a cynic, call me suspicious, but I don’t see any supreme efforts by either the World Health Organisation or major Western governments to actively educate and support women in giving babies the only start to life which will help them develop optimally. You have to ask why this is the case. Who benefits from premature weaning? Certainly not the child or his/her mother...
I also struggle to understand why the well known breastfeeding organisations also promote the WHO guidelines. Inadequate breastfeeding creates yet another generation dependent on the holy National Health Service. Clearly, following WHO’s guideline is better than not breastfeeding at all, but endorsing it, severely short-changes our children.
Breastfeeding supporters shout that “breast is best”, but breastfeeding is in a league of its own. There is no competition! Why doesn’t anyone state the simple truth: a mother’s own breast milk is the only milk suitable for her child’s optimal nutrition. Receiving this milk directly from our mother’s breast, as nature intended, for as long as the child requires it, is the only path of action which will lead to a peaceful world. Our parenting is the foundation of society. Breastfeeding is never just about ‘the milk’ ~ it is so much more. When we choose to understand how the emotional and physical interaction between a mother and her breastfed child dramatically enhances health and well-being, for LIFE, then we see that the milk of human kindness really does start and end with the mother. Any organisation or government which fails to acknowledge the necessity of this bond is taking steps to undermine humanity’s health and well-being.
If you are thinking about when to introduce foods other than breast milk, or when to end the breastfeeding relationship, always follow your heart and instinct, rather than information set out by a faceless organisation, or a health visitor with a weaning agenda.
Our children are always the best judges of the right time to wean. Your job, as a mother or father, is to keep your heart open, and trust your child. It may not sound much, but it’s the most important job in the world!