By Clare Wilson
7 November 2016
Newborn babies are being made ill by strict rules in hospitals that are aimed at getting more women to breastfeed – and they don’t even work.
Global guidelines, set by UNICEF, say that women trying to breastfeed shouldn’t use occasional bottles of formula, even in the first few days after birth when they might not be making much milk. But refraining from using formula during this time can in some cases lead to babies getting dehydrated and developing jaundice.
Parents are also told not to give their baby a dummy, or pacifier, in case they prefer sucking on that to the breast. But dummies seem to reduce the risk of cot death, also known as sudden infant death syndrome.
Now, medical body the US Preventive Services Task Force says there is no evidence that either strategy raises breastfeeding rates, and has published an updated review of such strategies. Valerie Flaherman at the University of California, San Francisco, warns in an editorial in the same journal that hospitals should reconsider these policies as they “risk causing unnecessary harm”.