Here we go again. Another raft of controversial advice for mothers of babies, which will only go to confuse and worry. This time it is a team of leading UK scientists. New mothers having been constantly bombarded with the mantra "thou shalt exclusively breast feed" for at least the first six months of their babies' life, they are now being told that might not be best for baby.
According to the scientists, from three leading UK universities, waiting until six months before weaning your baby can increase the likelihood of a child developing allergies and having low iron levels.
In 2003, the Government introduced new recommendations (based on World Health Organisation guidelines) that babies should not be weaned before six months. This was a major change to previous advice, which had recommended starting at four months.
My first daughter was born in 2003, and I was advised to wean at four months. My second was born two years later and so the advice was six months. Even at that time, I remember thinking the whole thing was frustrating and misleading.
How could so-called experts suddenly come up with such differing advice?
In the end, I did what most mothers should do and I followed my instincts. When it seemed that breast milk alone could not satisfy them and they looked longingly at my plate of food, I started to wean. In both cases, it was at about five months. Neither child seems to be prone to particular allergies, although I have no idea about their iron levels.
What these experts seem to forget is that every child is different. A friend of mine had a very hungry baby boy. He was large at birth and grew quickly. He would scream with what she now knows was hunger, but having been told to exclusively breast feed for six months, she felt terribly guilty when, at three months, she introduced some baby rice, which he wolfed down and then slept – like a baby.
My main concern about this conflicting advice, which has been rebutted by midwives and the Department of Health, is that it will put women off breast feeding altogether.
They are constantly told that "breast is best" and if they fail in some way they are guilty of not doing the best for their baby. But when the experts giving them this advice don't seem to agree what is actually
best, it can not fail to raise doubts in the minds of those who may have been wavering on whether or not to breast feed.
There is enough pressure on new mums already without more conflicting advice to confuse them. The main thing is to listen to your baby.
Advice will come and go, but baby will always know best.