The World Health Organisation (WHO) revised breastfeeding guidelines, which continue to recommend avoiding supplementary feeds in breastfed newborns has led to complications that cause brain injury and permanent disability.
Fed is Best, a non-profit, volunteer organisation of parents and health professionals with a mission to be the source for inclusive, evidence-based education and information about infant feeding for parents and healthcare, is calling on people to comment before October 24th to enable WHO revise the guidelines and protect babies from accidental starvation
Dr Christie del Castillo-Hegyi, co-Founder of the Fed is Best Foundation, said: “the pressure to achieve exclusive breastfeeding is contributing to an epidemic of infant feeding complications, preventable hospitalisations, unrecognised brain injury, lower academic achievement and long-term disability.
A key recommendation of 1989 WHO Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding which guides the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is: “give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk unless medically indicated.”
This has led to serious complications from accidental starvation of babies, including dehydration, hyperbilirubinemia (jaundice) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) — known causes of infant brain injury and permanent disability.
A statement from the Fed is Best Foundation said on September 22, 2017, senior members of the Fed is Best Foundation, and guests including a neonatologist and a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr Paul Thornton, M.D, lead author of the Pediatric Endocrine Society’s newborn hypoglycemia guidelines, met via teleconference with top officials of the WHO Breastfeeding Programme: Dr.Laurence Grummer-Strawn, PhD, Dr Nigel Rollins, M.D. and Dr Wilson Were, M.D. to express their concerns about the complications from the BFHI, and to ask what, if any, monitoring, research, or public outreach the WHO has planned regarding the risks of accidental starvation.
The WHO officials reported that they have not specifically studied the complications from exclusive breastfeeding and have no studies commissioned to monitor complications of the BFHI.
The statement said WHO convened a group of global infant nutrition experts last year to review and revise their guidelines, but no one on the panel raised the issue of complications as a priority for discussion.
Dr Christie del Castillo-Hegyi has presented data on the high incidence of the complications from BFHI-certified hospitals and the severe neurological consequences.
Publicly acknowledging the common problem of insufficient breast milk and the importance of supplementation to protect the brain can prevent millions of complications, hospitalisations and newborn injuries. Being fully fed is a basic human right that is not currently met by the standard of care.”
Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi asked WHO officials if there were any plans to inform mothers of the risks of brain injury from insufficient breast milk in order to make sure that they are aware when a child is critically ill at home, that supplementation could protect their child from brain injury.
The WHO is accepting comments on these guideline revisions until October 24, 2017. The Foundation urges healthcare providers, parents, and the public to demand that the WHO not to place exclusive breastfeeding before infant safety in their guidelines and commit to informing parents of the real risks of insufficient feeding.