The hocus-pocus of child rearing advice

I feel very angry. How many New Zealand children have been exposed to allergies because of erroneous advice from the Ministry of Health over the past 30 years? It seems that the practice of telling parents to delay the introduction of solid foods, in particular that known to have allergenic properties like nuts and eggs, may have contributed to the onset of asthma and eczema in children.

It now looks as though the traditional way parents round the world have intuitively introduced solid food at about 3-4 months may have also been the best. The obsession with exclusive breast feeding till 6 months (no, you can’t even give water for God’s sake) and the belief that early solids can cause allergies seems to have been based on a complete fairy story.

But where is the accountability for such a situation? Has anyone even publicly admitted the mistake? And why does it matter?

It matters because all the research shows that one of the main areas of tension between child health nurses and parents is over the introduction of solids and the weaning process. It matters because this is often the reason the very people who might benefit from an ongoing and supportive relationship with their nurse drop out of the service. It matters because someone somewhere is responsible for disseminating this hocus-pocus and exposing children to allergies and asthma.  And it matters because this advice was apparently never based on scientific evidence.

In fact this mess highlights the risks associated with the popular notion, perpetuated by those in positions of power, that raising kids is a scientific enterprise.  It’s time we dropped any pretence that most childrearing advice is anything other than a reflection of current fashion, cultural practises, ideology, or, in other words, complete hocus-pocus.

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