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Anisa Arsenault
Associate Editor

Fed Is Best Foundation Says WHO Breastfeeding Guidelines Fall Short of Human Rights Standards

They worry the guidelines over-emphasize exclusive breastfeeding.
PUBLISHED ON 10/20/2017

We're constantly reminding you that breastfeeding in public is your right. So admittedly, a new development about breastfeeding potentially infringing on human rights caught us a little off guard. But a non-profit organization of health professionals is challenging the World Health Organization's (WHO) revised breastfeeding guidelines, saying the guidelines put babies at risk for starvation.

The WHO updated its global breastfeeding guidelines earlier this year, calling for things like improved workplace breastfeeding policies and better access to lactation consultants—which are really hard to disagree with. But one thing that remained unchanged? The Ten Steps To Successful Breastfeeding, one of which calls for parents to "give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated."

With just days left in the public comment period for the revised guidelines, the Fed Is Best Foundation (FIBF) is highlighting a danger of that specific step. The non-profit organization, which aims to educate parents on the safest methods of breastfeeding, formula feeding, and both, says that parents who adhere too strictly to the breast milk-only recommendation could unknowingly malnourish their infant.

FIBF experts brought their concerns up to the WHO via teleconference, elaborating on potential complications that can result from malnourishment, such as dehydration, jaundice and low blood sugar. Worst case scenario, these can lead to brain injury and disability.

“Publicly acknowledging the common problem of insufficient breast milk and the importance of supplementation to protect the brain can prevent millions of complications, hospitalizations and newborn injuries,” says FIBF co-founder Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, MD. "Being fully fed is a basic human right that is not currently met by the standard of care."

According to Nigel Rollins, MD, of the Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at WHO, tweaking the Ten Steps To Successful Breastfeeding or making mothers aware of the potential need to supplement with formula is "not a top priority" right now.

We understand that, when you're able to nurse, breast is best. But since zero countries have actually met the WHO breastfeeding standard to breastfeeding exclusively for six months and continue with complementary foods through 2 years, maybe its worth some higher prioritization.

H/T Forbes

PHOTO: Crystal Sing