Today, August 7, marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week, which is organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). This year’s focus has been on rallying global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work.
World Breastfeeding Week is part of the gBICS (Global Breastfeeding Initiative for Child Survival) Programme entitled: ‘Enhancing Breastfeeding Rates Contributes to Women’s Rights, Health, and a Sustainable Environment,’ which aims to contribute to the achievement of sustainable development – beyond the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs).
Health care professionals have always declared that breast milk is the best thing for babies, as it provides a number of significant benefits. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “Breast milk is a unique combination of nutrients essential to a child’s health, and cannot be duplicated by any laboratory formula. It provides a number of health advantages beginning at birth and continuing throughout a child’s life. In fact, a large number of the health problems today’s children face might be decreased, or even prevented, by breastfeeding the infant exclusively for at least the first six months of life. The longer the mother breastfeeds, the more likely her child will get the health benefits of breastfeeding.”
Here are some of the benefits:
- Breast-fed children are more resistant to disease and infection early in life than formula-fed children. Many studies show that breastfeeding strengthens the immune system. During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which help the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines.
- In developing countries, differences in infection rates can seriously affect an infant’s chances for survival. For example, in Brazil, a formula-fed baby is 14 times more likely to die than an exclusively breast-fed baby.
- Breast-fed children are less likely to contract a number of diseases later in life, including juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and cancer before the age of 15.
- Several recent studies have shown that children who were breast-fed are significantly less likely to become obese later in childhood. Formula feeding is linked to about a 20 to 30 percent greater likelihood that the child will become obese.
- As children grow into adults, several studies have shown that people who were breast-fed as infants have lower blood pressure on average than those who were formula-fed. Thus, it is not surprising that other studies have shown that heart disease is less likely to develop in adults who were breast-fed in infancy.
There are also several benefits for mom, which include:
- Quicker weight loss after birth – Mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk. In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation. Breastfeeding also releases the hormone oxytocin that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
- Nursing helps protect women from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective – more than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined. In Africa, breastfeeding prevents an estimated average of four births per woman, and in Bangladesh it prevents an estimated average of 6.5 births per woman.
- Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
- Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.
- Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
These facts are from the NRDC. Click here to read more.