Importance of Breast feeding
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every year from 1st August to 7th August in more than 120 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates policies by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund from August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
Experts have always been of the opinion that exclusive breastfeeding a baby for the first six months of its life has long lasting benefits for both the mother and the child.
Importance of Breastfeeding for the infants
- Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for infants: All the baby’s nutritional requirements in terms of protein, fat, vitamins can be adequately met for the first six months of exclusive breast feeding. Premature babies tend to do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
- Antibodies in breast milk and colostrums: It helps the newborn in fighting off virus and bacteria. Colostrums help a newborn's digestive tract develop and prepare itself to digest breast milk.
- Health advantages: For infants, breastfeeding provides health advantages that include reduced risk of infectious diseases like bacterial meningitis, respiratory tract infection, and diarrhea. It may also decrease chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infants under one year old. Older children and adults who were breastfed as babies have a lower risk of Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and asthma.
- Higher IQ levels: Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born prematurely.
Importance of Breastfeeding for the mother:
- As breast milk requires extra calories, the mother can lose the extra weight gained during pregnancy faster (provided her post pregnancy diet is well balanced).
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone called ‘oxytocin’ which helps the uterus to return to its normal size.
- Research also suggests that breastfeeding could reduce the risk of the mother developing breast and ovarian cancer and possibly a reduced risk of post-menopausal hip fracture and osteoporosis.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods upto two years of age or beyond.
New mothers should check with their doctors to be sure that there is nothing in their health profiles or those of their babies that could make exclusive breastfeeding a health problem. New mothers should take healthy diet so that they are able to make enough milk for the baby. The diet for breastfeeding mom’s must include plenty of vegetables, green leaves and fruits. This along with whole grains and legumes and foods high in calcium to provide all the different nutrients required in a lactating mother’s diet.
Making the decision to breastfeed is a very personal matter. Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended six months, it's better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. Spread the awareness and importance of breastfeeding for the infants and the mother.
Consult our dietitians for a personalized diet for nursing mothers, child care or any other query.