Breast milk should be babies' only food, mothers are told

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Mothers should give their babies only breast milk for the first six months of the infant's life, the Government recommended today.

Mothers should give their babies only breast milk for the first six months of the infant's life, the Government recommended today.

The Department of Health issued the new advice today to mark the start of National Breastfeeding Awareness Week and is in line with the latest guidance from the World Health Organisation.

The Government's recommendation said: "Breastfeeding is the best form of nutrition for infants. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months (26 weeks) of an infant's life as it provides all the nutrients a baby needs."

The advice has been supported by the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association and the Royal College of Midwives.

The department said that Babies who are breastfed have a lower risk of gastroenteritis and respiratory and ear infections. And children who are breastfed may be at lower risk of becoming obese later in childhood. There is also evidence that there may be long-term benefits for mothers.

Public Health minister, Hazel Blears, said: "Breastfeeding for the first six months provides the best start for babies. It establishes a foundation for improving short and long-term health and in so doing can help to reduce health inequalities."

Rosemary Dodds, policy research officer at the National Childbirth Trust, said: "The evidence is clear that breastfed babies do not generally need to start on solid foods before about six months.

"We are encouraging families and health professionals to have more confidence in breastfeeding. It is vital that this confidence is conveyed to mothers so that they feel well supported."

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