Breast milk has been widely acknowledged as the best food for babies. Breast milk, which has complete nutrients, has a range of benefits for the infants’ health- growth, immunity and development.
‘Colostrum’, the yellowish, sticky breast milk produced at the end of pregnancy, is recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) as the perfect food for the newborn.
However, in these present times, mothers, particularly working moms, don’t nurse their newborns properly owing to their hectic schedules.
WHO and UNICEF suggest:
-Early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
-Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
-Introduction of nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary (solid) foods after six months together with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.
But, many infants and children do not get the best possible feeding. According to WHO, only about 38% of infants aged 0 to 6 months are exclusively breastfed worldwide. In India, only 41% mothers initiate early breastfeeding, said an NGO.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) was first celebrated in 1992 by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and is now observed in over 174 countries worldwide. Endorsed by WABA, WHO and UNICEF, World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration which is being held from 1st to 7th August every year with the goal to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.
The theme for this year is ‘BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT: Close to MOTHERS’, focusing on breastfeeding peer counseling.
Benefits of breastfeeding:
There are many benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for six months for both the infant and mother. Studies have shown a number of health benefits of breastfeeding such as:
-Breastfed kids are more resistant to diseases and infections early in life than formula-fed children.
-Early initiation of breastfeeding, within one hour of birth, keeps the infant from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. The mortality risk due to diarrhoea and other infections can increase in infants who are either partially breastfed or not at all breastfed.
-Adults who were breastfed as babies, are less likely to be overweight/obese.
-Breastfed kids are less likely to get a number of diseases later in life- juvenile diabetes, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and cancer before the age of 15.
-Breastfeeding protects against Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the most commonly diagnosed neurobehavioral condition in children and teens.
-Breastfeeding moms are less likely to get osteoporosis later in life; breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ovarian, uterine and breast cancer.
-Breastfeeding helps mothers lose weight gained during pregnancy more easily and can also reduce stress level and risk of postpartum depression.
New research has linked breastfeeding with kids’ intelligence. Breastfeeding has also economic advantages as you do not need to spend money to buy formula.It also helps avoid medical bills later as it helps equip the infant to fight off disease and infection.