The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding (that is the baby receives breast milk without any additional food or drinks, not even water) for the first six months of the baby’s life, because of the nutritional and health benefits of breast feeding to the infant.
The health benefits of breastfeeding are extensive, well recognized and apply to every mom and baby in both the developed and developing countries. Breastfeeding is uniquely suited to the baby’s nutritional needs. It also provides immunological and anti-inflammatory properties which protect both mother and child against a host of diseases.
It is common knowledge that our breastfeeding mothers are culturally encouraged to mix feed their babies. Some of these moms introduce water prior to 6 months and some as early as the first month. Some of the cultural factors influencing their decision to mix feed their babies include:
- Pressure by village elders and families to mix feed because it is a traditional practice.
- Belief that breast milk is an incomplete food that does not increase the infant’s weight.
- The taboo of prohibiting sexual contact during breastfeeding.
Now we are aware of the barriers to exclusive breast feeding, what are the benefits of breastfeeding over bottle feeding or any other alternative form of feeding? And why should every mom adopt exclusive breastfeeding for at least up to 6 months of the baby’s life.
Protects the babies from childhood illness;
Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It provides infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies which help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of childhood mortality worldwide. Breast milk is readily available and affordable which helps to ensure that infants get adequate nutrition. [Source]
Provides better maternal health:
Exclusive breastfeeding reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes and postpartum depression. Postpartum depression poses not only to the mother’s health but also to the health of the child, particularly when she is unable to fully care for her child. Exclusive breastfeeding is also associated as a natural method of birth control. It also helps to space children.[Source]
Provides long term benefits for infants;
Beyond the immediate benefits for children, breastfeeding contributes to a life time of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breast fed 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. It promotes sensory and cognitive development. [Source]
Breast milk has antibodies not found in infant formula;
The long term benefits of breast feeding for mothers and children cannot be replicated with infant formula. When infant formula is not properly prepared, there are risks arising from the use of unsafe water and unsterilized equipment or the potential presence of bacteria in powdered formula. Malnutrition can result from over diluting formula to “stretch” supplies. If formula is used but becomes unavailable, a return to breast feeding may not be an option due to diminished breast milk production. [Source]
Transmission of HIV through breastfeeding can be reduced with drugs:
An HIV infected mother can pass the infection to her baby during pregnancy, delivery and through breast feeding. However, antiretroviral (ARV) drugs given together mother or HIV exposed infants reduces the risk of transmission. Together, breast feeding and ARVs have the potential to significantly improve the child’s chances of surviving and remaining HIV uninfected. [Source]
Favors mother and child bonding:
Irrespective of the health benefits provided by breastfeeding to mother and child, another important factor is the desire to experience a sense of bonding/closeness with her newborn. This influences the decision of some women to breastfeed. [Source]
Breast feeding could permit families save money in expenditure for alternative baby food. Better infant health also saves money in hospitals bills. Employers, it provides less time off for employees to cater for sick children and favors higher productivity. Increasing breastfeeding rates can reduce the prevalence of various illnesses and health conditions, which in turn lowers health care cost. [ Source]
Breast milk is a natural, renewable food that acts as a complete source of babies’ nutrition. It has no packaging involved as opposed to alternative form of nutrition which requires packaging that eventually faces challenges in discarding. [Source]
Breastfeeding is a key contributor to the survival, health and well being of infants and mothers. Put simply, it provides babies with the best possible start in life. Exclusive breast feeding for a t least the first 6 months of the baby’s life could be the best welcome we could offer the baby. And remember, Breast Milk is BAE (Breast Milk Above Everything)
Do you have any contribution to support breastfeeding over bottle feeding? Do you think bottle feeding has more benefits over breastfeeding? Then join the conversation in the comment section.
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