World Breastfeeding week is annually celebrated from the 1st to 7th of August to raise awareness of the health benefits of breastfeeding, as well as to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies. World Breastfeeding Week commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Innocenti in August 1990. Government policymakers as well as various organisations like WHO (World Health Organisation) and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) in order to promote, protect and support healthy breastfeeding practices around the world.
World Breastfeeding week has a different theme every year, this year the theme is “Breastfeeding Foundation of Life”. The first 1000 days of life are a critical period in which dietary and environmental factors shape the child’s development, health and potential, essentially paving the foundation of the child’s life. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months provides not only the child but the mother with many benefits and provides the most solid foundation for the child’s development.
BREASTFEEDING BENEFITS FOR BABY:
Colostrum (the first milk produced immediately after birth) acts like the child’s first vaccination as it provides immunoglobulins which helps to strengthen and prepare the baby’s natural defence system against infections like:
• Ear infections (otitis media)
• Urinary tract infections
Breast milk also contains a protein known as ‘Lactoferrin’. This protein binds iron in the gut which means that harmful gastric bacteria cannot feed on it and multiply, this can again aid in preventing gastroenteritis or diarrhoea.
The lactose in breast milk aids in the development of a good bacteria ‘Lactobacillus bifidus’ which again plays a role in decreasing gastric illness.
Studies have also found that infants that are breast-fed have a lower risk to develop asthma, diabetes or Childhood Leukaemia
2. EASY ON THE GUT:
The nutritional make-up of breast milk makes it easier for the infant’s developing gut to break down and absorb the nutrients. The iron levels in breastmilk are generally lower than that in formula but is absorbed a lot more easily. Breast milk contains lipase which helps with the breakdown of fat, meaning it is absorbed more effectively. Generally speaking, the more effectively nutrients are digested and absorbed, the less gastric irritation there will be (less fussy baby).
3. NUTRITIONAL COMPOSITION:
The nutritional composition of breast milk changes during breastfeeding to meet the infant’s needs. In a feed the breast milk gradually increases in fat content so as to help with satiety which helps to prevent overfeeding. Breast milk naturally contains all the nutrients in the amounts needed by the infant. If infant formula is incorrectly prepared it can either provide too much or too little nutrients. It can also result in gastric discomfort for the infant.
4. DECREASED RISK OF CONTAMINATION:
Preparing infant formula can pose a potential threat of infection if the powder becomes contaminated or is not stored correctly. Bottles that are not correctly washed again be a risk factor for gastric infection.
BENEFITS FOR MOTHER AND INFANT
5. BONDING can often be promoted between infant and mother during breastfeeds.
BENEFITS FOR MOTHER:
Studies have found that women that breastfeed have a lower incidence of breast or ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. These benefits last even after the period of breastfeeding.
7. DECREASED POST-PARTUM BLEEDING:
Breastfeeding results in the release of a hormone called oxytocin which helps uterine contraction and decreases post-partum bleeding
Breastfeeding helps women to lose the weight gained during pregnancy and return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
Breastfeeding helps delay the onset of menstruation and can aid in birth spacing.
Infant formulas are a major expense especially as the baby grows and their nutritional requirements increase.
Breast milk requires minimal preparation and is readily available. Breastfeeding provides milk in the correct nutritional composition and temperature according to the baby’s requirements.