Dr Christian’s Embarrassing Comments
UK doctor, Dr Christian Jessen, from the TV show “Embarrassing Bodies” has caused a bit of a stir on social media and blogging sites, after his comments on an article about breastfeeding in the “Closer magazine” confused and offended many.
Dr Christian Jessen is quoted in the magazine as saying:
“Breast milk boosts a baby’s immune system, but only for the first six months. After that, it has no effect. As long as they child is having a healthy diet, there’s no harm in breastfeeding. But breastfed older children risk becoming psychologically dependant on their mother. This could result in behavioural problems as they grow up.”
I’m sitting in the confused camp. The first part “Breast milk boosts a baby’s immune system, but only for the first six months. After that, it has no effect.” Is simply incorrect.
The second part “As long as they child is having a healthy diet, there’s no harm in breastfeeding.” Is a little bit bizarre, as obviously there is no harm in breastfeeding, thanks captain obvious.
And the final part “But breastfed older children risk becoming psychologically dependant on their mother. This could result in behavioural problems as they grow up.” Is a statement that in my opinion needs to be backed up with something, like evidence? I’m not a doctor, I don’t pretend to be a doctor, or a psychologist, I won’t say this is or isn’t correct, but considering it’s a pretty big statement for Dr Jessen to be making, he certainly should back it up with something more than his own opinion.
Yesterday the Closer Magazine attempted to clear up what he meant by these statements. Starting by clarifying that his “expert comment” was regarding a mother breastfeeding her 4 year old, with plans to breastfeeding until 8.
He was quoted as saying:
“Advice on breast feeding is always changing. The World Health Organisation recommends breast feeding for up to two years, while the NHS recommends breast feeding for the first six months. Breast milk is beneficial to a baby’s immune system for the first six months, but there is no harm in continuing to do it as long as the child has a healthy diet. If a child is being breast fed until eight, this may make them overly dependent on their mother. However if they are being breast-fed at four there is no harm in this. I support women who want to breastfeed and would never wish to discourage anyone from doing so.”
World Health Organisation still can be quoted as saying “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” Can I just clarify for Dr Christian Jessen that the WHO quite clearly recommends “up to two years of age OR BEYOND” – this is not just “up to”, 2 years is a recommended minimum, not a time limit.
The NHS recommends “Exclusive breastfeeding (giving your baby breast milk only) is recommended for around the first six months (26 weeks) of your baby’s life. “ and goes on to say “Any amount of breastfeeding has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.” Which doesn’t at all say to me that the benefits of breastfeeding are limited until 6 months, just that at 6 months it’s recommended to introduce solids.
On Christian Jessen’s Twitter account, he says “Right I have a flight to catch! Glad we cleared up breastfeeding issue. 4 those of u interested NHS advice may change http://m.ajcn.nutrition.org/content/85/2/635S.long …” Which links to “Optimal duration of exclusive breastfeeding: what is the evidence to support current recommendations?” Which relates to EXCLUSIVE BREASTFEEDING.
Now, again, I’m not a doctor, but I’m pretty sure that “Breastfeeding” and “Exclusive Breastfeeding” is not the same thing, you can’t use a recommendation of introducing solids at 4-6 months as a recommendation to stop breastfeeding at 4-6 months.
I understand that he has tried to support mothers who choose not to, or are unable to, breastfeed, which is admirable, but I feel like the problem here is he’s trying to support mothers by giving incorrect information, and also by saying “Breastfeeding a 6year old is just weird” on Twitter, attempting to shame mothers who feed for longer than he in his personal, not medical, opinion deems appropriate. This is not supporting mothers, this is not supporting choice – it’s unprofessional.
So, perhaps Dr Christian Jesson, should stick to talking about premature ejaculation (or flowers or puppies or something, but not breastfeeding) and if a magazine wants to print his expert opinion, stick to topics he know anything about.