Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters When to wean

Infection more important than anaemia or allergy

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 15 February 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1000
  1. Charlotte M Wright, professor of community child health1
  1. 1University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. charlotte.wright{at}

It seems extraordinary that concern about possible effects on iron deficiency and coeliac disease should lead Fewtrell and colleagues to suggest shortening the recommended duration of exclusive breast feeding, when they acknowledge that longer durations of exclusive breast feeding are associated with substantial reductions in infectious diseases.1 Excellent research evidence suggests that this effect applies to children in affluent as well as deprived societies.2 3 Visit any UK paediatric ward and you will find it teeming with infants with infections, not iron deficiency and coeliac disease. Inevitably harms as well as benefits are associated with deferring solids, and the World Health Organization determined the age at which equipoise between the two was reached.

It also seems extraordinary that the BMJ published this highly subjective article in the same issue in which it repeatedly castigated the Lancet for its behaviour in relation to MMR.4 Many children will lose the protective benefit of breast milk as the result of the BMJ’s inflammatory publicity and become ill as a consequence. Will the BMJ next mount an exposé of its own irresponsibility?


Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d1000


  • Competing interests: None declared.


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