Breastfed, best fed – in terms of its profound impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development.
Breastmilk provides all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals an infant needs for growth for the first six months, and no other liquids or food are needed. In addition, breastmilk carries antibodies from the mother that help combat disease.
The act of breastfeeding itself stimulates proper growth of the mouth and jaw, and secretion of hormones for digestion and satiety. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of chronic conditions later in life, such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, childhood asthma and childhood leukemia.
Globally, breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers (Lancet 2008).
Even in industrialized countries, studies find that non-breastfed children are also at greater risk of dying and getting major disease. A recent study of post-neonatal mortality in the United States found a 25 per cent increase in mortality among non-breastfed infants. In the UK Millennium Cohort Survey, six months of exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a 53 per cent decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhoea and a 27 per cent decrease in respiratory tract infections.
A ‘Children of 1997′ cohort study in Hong Kong found that breastfeeding is associated with less hospital admissions for diarrhoea and chest infections and fewer illness related visits to doctors. By promoting breastfeeding, it can lessen the burden posed to our health care system.
Breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby.
The interaction between the mother and child during breastfeeding has positive implications for life, in terms of stimulation, behaviour, speech, sense of wellbeing and security and social interaction.
Breastfed babies are smarter.
Studies have shown that breastfed infants score better on intelligence and behavioural tests with better educational attainment and income in adulthood than formula-fed babies.
Breastfeeding is good for mothers’ health.
Breastfeeding contributes to maternal health immediately after the delivery because it helps reduce the risk of post-partum haemorrhage. In the short term, breastfeeding delays the return to fertility and in the long term, it reduces type 2 diabetes. Studies have also found an association between early cessation of breastfeeding and post natal depression in mothers.
Virtually every mother can breastfeed.
Few mothers cannot breastfeed for medically reasons. If given appropriate support, advice and encouragement, as well as practical assistance to resolve any problems, most mothers can breastfeed. Studies have shown that early skin to skin contact between mothers and babies in addition to frequent and unrestricted breastfeeding help ensure continued production of milk. Support with positioning and attaching the baby increase the chances of breastfeeding being successful.