Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Posts Tagged ‘WHO growth charts

Medicalization of growth. WHO global growth standards.

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Medicalization of breastfeeding reached into setting abstract standards for universally acceptable infant growth. In 2006 WHO released global growth standards, based on optimal infant feeding practices.  Much to the unfounded delight of breastfeeding advocacy community. The pitfall?  The new charts mean that more breastfed babies will be classified as undernourished in the first six months. Why? Because the sample in the study included only affluent mothers who live in favorable conditions, have ability and resources to nurse fairly close  to current medical recommendations and have access to lactation consultants among other criteria (more on the history of the charts). Low socioeconomic status excluded mothers and children from the study.

It is widely known that majority of women in the world are of low socioeconomic status who do not live in mysterious optimal conditions of a social research lab. The new clinical growth charts that did not take this fact into account is an insult to many breastfeeding mothers. Just this fact alone makes them useless in clinical application, especially as a standard as opposed to a reference.

Theoretical suggestion to use deviation from the WHO growth standardы to determine whether suboptimal environmental conditions exist and correct them are clinically impossible as medical professionals are not trained and are incapable to resolve social and economic problems. The only practical use for the data gathered could be political – advancing the status of women in society.

Optimal laboratory like conditions for living and nurturing children are Utopian ideas. It is very likely that a wide variety of growth rates are beneficial.  Breastfeeding and the corresponding highly variable growth of breastfed babies cannot be assessed by abstract numbers that are divorced from living conditions.

Breastfeeding is an adaptive strategy to prepare a child to live and prosper in life whether there is an abundance of food or lack of it, setting the growth of child for the conditions that the mother anticipates based on her surroundings.


Written by Medical Nemesis

October 12, 2011 at 15:13


To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!