August 1 – 7, 2016 is world breastfeeding week. It is time to commend all nursing mothers who make the necessary sacrifices to breastfeed their children. It is also time to encourage those who are still reluctant to do so.
Definitely, realising the benefits of breastfeeding would move every mother to do it.
For example, the World Health Organisation says 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.
Here are some benefits of breastfeeding that you should know:
- Being the ideal food for newborns and infants, breast milk gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development.
- Breast milk is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide.
- Breast milk is economical. It is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate nutrition.
- According to WHO, exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a natural (though not fail-safe) method of birth control (98% protection in the first six months after birth).
- Research shows that breastfeeding reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression for the mother.
- Beyond the immediate benefits for children, Breast milk 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.
- For babies with HIV, breastfeeding and Antiretroviral drugs have the potential to significantly improve their survival chances.