Breastfeeding is possibly one of the most important factors for the future health of generations to come!
In saying that, there are many reasons why mothers may not breastfeed - desire, medical, physical, lack of support or knowledge, return to work etc so this blog is not intended to undermine in any way. It is purely for educational purposes.
'The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child's first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.'
breastfeeding should begin within one hour of birth
breastfeeding should be 'on demand, as often as the child wants day and night; and bottles or pacifiers should be avoided.
'If every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 800 000 child lives would be saved every year.' WHO
Only about 40% of infants 0–6 months old are exclusively breastfed.
Statistics from the indicate that '96% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, 39% of babies are still being exclusively breastfed to 3 months and 15% to 5 months.
Breastmilk is a complex living substance, like blood, with a long list of active germ fighting and health promoting factors. These benefits help protect babies against a variety of health issues.
Besides nourishing a newborn with macronutrients (sugars, fat, and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), breast milk:
Protects against infection.
Promotes development of the brain, the immune system, and the gut.
Shapes a baby’s inner ecosystem, or unique
community of gut bacteria.
A drop of breastmilk contains around one
million white blood cells. These cells, called macrophages, 'gobble up' breastmilk germs. Breastmilk is also power-packed with
immunoglobulin A (IgA), which coats the lining of babies’ immature intestines,
preventing germs from leaking through. Secretory IgA also works to prevent food
allergies. By coating the intestinal lining like a protective paint, the
benefits of breastmilk prevent molecules of foreign foods from getting into the
bloodstream to set up an allergic reaction.
A mother’s breast milk is responsible for inoculating a baby’s delicate digestive system with good bacteria that can regulate development and, later, protect against disease.
Colostrum, the milk mothers produce in the first few days after birth, is especially rich in IgA, just at the time when the newborn is first exposed to the outside world and needs protection from germs and foreign substances entering his body. Colostrum also contains higher amounts of white blood cells and infection-fighting substances than mature milk.
As babies grow, the benefits of breastmilk
continue to provide important protection against infection and disease. Human
infants receive antibodies through the placenta, but these are gradually used
up during the first six months. Human milk fills in the immunity gap until
baby’s own immune system matures and kicks in. Even babies who continue to
breastfeed into toddlerhood benefit from the many immune factors in their
One of the benefits of breastmilk is that each mother provides custom-designed milk to protect her infant. When a baby is exposed to a new germ, mother’s body manufactures antibodies to that germ. These antibodies show up in her milk and are passed along to her baby.
If you ever doubted the benefits of breastfeeding check out no less than....
Here are some specific ways in which the benefits of breastmilk protects babies from illness:
Ear infections are a childhood nuisance, often following on the heels of stuffy noses and colds. The middle ear fills with fluid, and eventually that fluid becomes infected, causing pain, especially in the middle of the night. Repeated ear infections, or those that go untreated, can lead to hearing loss. This is an important concern in young children, since hearing difficulties can interfere with language, and language problems can later affect reading skills. Breastfeeding protects against ear infections in four possible ways:
Another of the benefits of breastmilk is
that it protects babies from diarrhoea and tummy upsets. This is
important not only for individual babies but also on a global scale. Diarrhoea
is a leading cause of infant mortality worldwide, and breastfeeding is the
simplest, most cost- effective way to protect babies from repeated bouts of
Another way in which the benefits of breastmilk protect tiny tummies is by promoting the growth of healthful bacteria in the intestines. Intestines are healthiest when you can keep the right “bugs” in the bowels. The healthful bacteria, known as bifidus bacteria, do good things for the body in return for a warm place to live. They manufacture vitamins and nutrients and keep the harmful bacteria in check. The high levels of lactose in breastmilk particularly encourage the growth of the healthful resident bacteria Lactobacillus bifidus.
Fewer Problems with Reflux
While all babies spit up a bit, some
regurgitate excessive amounts of milk, because of a condition called
gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Normally, the circular band of muscle where the
esophagus joins the stomach acts like a one-way valve, keeping milk, food, and
stomach acids from backing up into the esophagus when the stomach contracts.
When it doesn’t do its job and these acids enter the esophagus, the result is
an irritation that adults would call heartburn. In many infants, it takes six
months to a year for this muscle to mature enough to prevent this regurgitation
or reflux. GER is less of a problem in breastfed infants because breastmilk is
emptied twice as fast from the stomach. It’s less likely to be regurgitated
than slow-to-digest formula with its tough casein curds.
Breast milk contains high concentrations
of nutrients that support brain development.
Beyond the immediate benefits for children, breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. They are less likely to have type-II diabetes and perform better in intelligence tests.
Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a natural (though not fail-safe) method of birth control (98% protection in the first six months after birth). It reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression.Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth.
Breastfeeding has to be learned and many women encounter difficulties at the beginning. Many routine practices, such as separation of mother and baby, use of newborn nurseries, and supplementation with infant formula, actually make it harder for mothers and babies to breastfeed. Health facilities that support breastfeeding by avoiding these practices and making trained breastfeeding counsellors available to new mothers encourage higher rates of the practice. To provide this support and improve care for mothers and newborns, there are "baby-friendly" facilities in about 152 countries thanks to the WHO-UNICEF Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative. WHO
Easier to Digest
Fewer Allergens and Less InflammatoryHigh in Calcium