Breastfeeding: Best Nutrition for The Infant
”Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant or young child with breast milk directly from female human breasts” (Wikipedia). Many medical authorities, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, strongly recommend breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants.
World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF) launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in 1992, to strengthen maternity practices to support breastfeeding. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative has been implemented in about sixteen thousand hospitals in one hundred and seventy one countries and it has contributed to improving the establishment of exclusive breastfeeding worldwide. While approved maternity services help to increase the initiation of exclusive breastfeeding, support throughout the health system is required to help mothers sustain exclusive breastfeeding. American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agrees with WHO and UNICEF’s first six months exclusive breastfeeding.
To enable mothers to establish and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months, World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) recommend:
- Initiation of breastfeeding within first hour of life.
- Exclusive Breastfeeding: that is the infant only receives breast milk without any additional food or drink, not even water.
- Breastfeeding on demand: that is as often as the child wants, day and night.
- No use of bottles, teats or pacifiers.
Breast milk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional need during the second half of the first year and up to one-third during the second year of life.
What are the benefits of breastfeeding for babies
- Human breast milk is the healthiest form of milk for human babies. It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat –everything your child needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula.
- A variety of studies have also demonstrated that breastfeeding increases a child’s immunity to diseases, infection and strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to child, which enables the child resist diseases. Breast milk contain several anti-infective factors such as bile salt stimulated lipase (protecting against amoebic infections), lactoferrin (which binds to iron and inhibits the growth of intestinal bacteria) and immunoglobulin A (protecting against micro-organisms). Breastfeeding lowers baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for six months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bout of diarrhea. It’s been found also to lower the risk of diabetes, obesity, and childhood cancer in children, less than 15 years. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children. They also have fewer hospitalization and trips to the doctors.
- The Project Coordinator for Colostrum International, a non-governmental organization, Dr. Bunmi Ogundimu said that breast milk ensures that babies have sharp brains and healthy bodies. The first milk produced after childbirth is called colostrum. Colostrum is thick, yellowish, and scant, but there’s plenty to meet the baby’s nutritional needs. Colostrum helps a newborn’s digestive tract develop and prepare itself to digest breast milk.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says breastfeeding also plays a role in the prevention of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Studies examining whether breastfeeding in infants is associated with higher intelligence later in life include: Howard, Darlow and Mogridge (2001) tested the intelligence quotient (IQ) scores of 280 low birth weight children at 7 or 8 years of age. Those who were breastfed for more than eight months had verbal IQ scores six points higher than comparable children breastfed for less time. They concluded these fings add to a growing body of evidence to suggest that breastfeeding may have small long term benefits for a child cognitive development.
- In researching the psychological benefits of breast milk, one researcher discovered that breastfed children were, on average more mature, assertive and secure with themselves as they developed.
Breastfeeding benefits for the mother
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone, Oxytocin in the mother that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
- When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby by breastfeeding it, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to 98 percent effective. Scientists believe the process prevents more births worldwide than all of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of 4 births per woman, and in Bangladesh, it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.
- Breastfeeding help a woman lose weight after birth. Mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk.
- Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower the risk of osteoporosis, too.
- Since no formula, nipples, sterilizers, are bought and no warming of bottles, it save the mothers time and money.
- The physical closeness, skin to skin touching, and eye contact all help mother-child bonding.
Women who don’t have health problems should try to give their babies breast milk for at least the first six months of life. Even if you breastfeed less than the recommended six months, it’s better to breastfeed for a short time than no time at all. You can add solid food at six months but also continue to breastfeed for improved health of your baby. There are some cases when it is not possible to breastfeed. If you have HIV and active tuberculosis, you should not breastfeed, because you could give the infection to your baby. Certain medicine, illegal drugs, alcohol can also pass through the breast milk and cause harm to your baby. The quality of mother’s breast milk may be compromised by smoking, alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, and methadone.
Anthony Modungwo (author) from Benin on July 13, 2014:
Thanks Karen Hellier for your comment. Breast milk has been certified by medical experts as the best food for babies.
Karen Hellier from Georgia on July 13, 2014:
This was wonderful. I breastfed my 3 children ( 1st for a year, then a set of twins for 27 months) and loved every second of it. They were pretty healthy as babies too. I do believe it was very helpful in the bonding process. I hated when it when my breastfeeding days were over, but children do grow up!