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a baby being fed imageJuly 23 2018

The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) has published its report on ‘Feeding in the first year of life’, formally updating 1994 guidelines.

Following its review of the latest evidence, it has concluded that:

  • babies should be “exclusively breastfed until around 6 months of age and continue to be breastfed for at least the first year of life”;
  • solid foods should not be introduced until around 6 months to benefit the child’s overall health;
  • breastfeeding makes an important contribution to infant and maternal health including the development of the infant immune system;
  • not breastfeeding is associated with a higher risk of infant hospital admission for infectious illness;
  • delaying solid foods to around 6 months is not associated with later difficulty in accepting solid foods;
  • breast milk, infant formula and water should be the only drinks offered between 6 and 12 months of age – cows’ milk should not be given as a main drink, as this is associated with lower iron status;
  • a wide range of solid foods, including foods containing iron, should be introduced from around 6 months of age, alongside breastfeeding;
  • foods containing peanut and hen’s egg can be introduced from around 6 months of age and need not be differentiated from other solid foods;
  • breastfed infants up to 12 months should receive a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10µg of vitamin D (340-400 IU/d);
  • formula-fed infants do not need a supplement unless consuming less than 500ml of infant formula a day.

Dr Alison Tedstone, Chief Nutritionist at Public Health England, commented: “The SACN report reinforces existing advice on infant feeding in relation to breastfeeding and the introduction of solid foods. In new advice, it provides clear guidance on the introduction of allergenic foods.

“SACN’s robust advice puts to bed any arguments about a beneficial effect of early introduction of solid foods.”

Professor Mary Fewtrell, Nutrition Lead for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said: “The guidance provided in this report on specific practical aspects of infant feeding is extremely helpful. For example, the importance of introducing a wide range of solid foods with different textures and flavours including sources of iron, avoiding cows’ milk as the main drink, treating allergenic foods in the same way as other foods, and advice on vitamin D supplementation. 

“This information will help parents navigate their way through the process of introducing solid foods much more confidently. 

The RCPCH “strongly” supports breastfeeding, she said, but noted: “Some women cannot or choose not to breastfeed and this should be respected and appropriate support and education on infant feeding provided.”

Prof Fewtrell added: “We note the concerns raised by SACN about the significant proportion of infants with energy intakes above requirements and the proportion exceeding growth standards for their weight, and support the need for monitoring the prevalence of overweight and overfeeding in infants, and addressing high energy intakes in this age group.”

Links:
PHE announcement      
SACN ‘Independent report: Feeding in the first year of life: SACN report’. July 17 2018    
RCPCH comment          

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