Early taste testing results in shorter breastfeeding time

  • Article from Uppsala University
  • Subject: Health & medicine

Babies who start early with small samples of solid food have a shorter breastfeeding time. Something that causes both the mother and the child to miss out on the health benefits of breastfeeding.

In a study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University and Sophiahemmet University, 1,251 infants from all over Sweden, and their mothers, participated. When the mothers answered questions about the child’s food in the first year using questionnaires, it emerged that half of all children in the study, 48 percent, were already given a taste test during the fourth month. The earlier the babies started with small taste tests, the earlier they ate larger amounts of solid food. This, in turn, led to breast-feeding ending earlier and the children getting a shorter breast-feeding time.

Different advice from the WHO and the Swedish Food Agency

Since 2011, the Swedish Food Agency’s advice to parents has been that they can introduce small taste samples to babies from the age of four months. The World Health Organization WHO, on the other hand, recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for at least two years or longer. The recommendations apply to all countries in the world, including Sweden, and one reason is that breastfeeding has a scientifically proven large positive impact on the health of both women and children.

  • The breast milk contains substances that protect the baby against, among other things, infections such as pneumonia and urinary tract infection, during the breastfeeding period.
  • Breast milk also reduces the risk of the child suffering from cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes later in life.
  • Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of suffering from, for example, cardiovascular diseases, ovarian cancer, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.
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Source: WHO

– There is a lack of support in the research that the introduction of early taste tests means any health benefits for the child or the mother. However, we know that breastfeeding has many health benefits for both the baby and the mother. For example, the child is protected from infections during the breastfeeding period, and both mother and child have a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases, says Eva-Lotta Funkquist, senior lecturer at Uppsala University and midwife.

Creates insecurity in women

Previous studies have shown that almost all women express that they want to breastfeed. Conflicting advice from the WHO and the Swedish Food Agency, and recommendations without evidence, such as small taste tests, make it more difficult for mothers who want to breastfeed to get support for it, and only 10 percent of children in Sweden are fully breastfed for six months.

– Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that authorities in Sweden have recommendations that promote breastfeeding, and that they follow WHO’s. Otherwise, the risk is that mothers will stop breastfeeding earlier and that both the mother and the child will have a greater risk of ill health, says Eva-Lotta Funkquist.

Scientific article:

The association between early introduction of tiny tastings of solid foods and duration of breastfeeding( Stern , J. , Funkquist , EL. & Grandahl , M. ), International Breastfeeding Journal.


Eva-Lotta Funkquist, Associate Professor, University Lecturer at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Uppsala University and pediatric nurse and midwife, [email protected]
Jenny Stern, associate professor, researcher at Uppsala University, lecturer at Sophiahemmet University and nurse, [email protected]
Maria Grandahl, Associate Professor, University Lecturer at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Uppsala University, [email protected]

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The United Nations, UN, states that breastfeeding ensures that the child can be fed safely in the event of war or crisis situations, for example if the energy supply does not work or if there is a shortage of baby food. Previous research shows that in the Western world, more women’s lives than infants’ lives would be saved by following the recommendation of full breastfeeding for six months (Bartick MC, et al. (2016)).

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