World Breastfeeding Week - 1–7 August 2011
With a goal to boost the health of infants worldwide and encourage mothers to breastfeed, nearly 120 countries around the world celebrate World Breastfeeding Week from 1-7 August every year.
According to statistics, out of 27 million babies born in India each year, close to 1.2 million babies do not get past the first one month. This is due to poor neonatal care and malnutrition which are the main reasons for infant mortality in India.
One million infant lives can be saved by just breast feeding in the 1st Hour following the birth of the child. If mothers and families comprehend the benefits of breast feeding for six months, it can save the lives of 250,000 babies annually.
Breastfeeding offers newborns all the nutrition required and therefore the WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding till the baby is six months old.
Breast Milk- Nature's Protection for the Baby
A recent insight has pointed out the bountiful goodness of breast milk.
• Many types of immunoglobulins are found in abundance in the 'first milk' called colostrums. Among the immunoglobulins, IGA is special as it offers protection against infections of the ears, nose, and throat.
• Lactoferrin, which is an iron-binding protein, is found in breast milk which offers antibiotic protection against bacteria such as staphylococci and E. coli.
• Lysozome, an important digestive ingredient is found amply in breast milk.
• Breast milk also contains long chain fatty acids, called DHA and ARA which are extremely important for the development of the brain and retina.
Another unique characteristic of breast milk is that it keeps changing to meet the requirements of infants at every stage of growth. Undoubtedly, it is the perfect nourishment for babies during the first year as it contains many protective ingredients that offer immunity against many illnesses.
Double Benefit for Mother and Baby
Oxytocin, the 'cuddle hormone' is released due to the repetitive suckling of the baby at the breast. Oxytocin also triggers the release of the milk from the breasts. It promotes positive emotions, relieves maternal stress and anxiety and enhances the bond between the mother and child. Further, this hormone also causes the uterus to contract gradually and regain its pre-pregnancy size.
The lactation process itself can be compared to an exercise workout which burns nearly 200 to 500 calories per day. This helps the mother lose the excess fat gained during pregnancy.
Breast Feeding strengthens the immune system. It also assists in natural spacing of pregnancies as it delays the onset of the menstrual period.
Breast feeding also offers protection against ovarian, uterine and breast cancers.
The risk of juvenile, insulin-dependent diabetes is 34% less for children who have been exclusively breast-fed during the initial three months of their lives. Breastfeeding also cuts the risk of childhood cancer. Additionally, breast-fed children are more confident, underlining the connection between breast feeding and sound emotional health. Research has also shown that breast-fed babies are 50% more likely to do well in life and occupy respectable positions in society.
Essentially, Breast feeding lays the foundation for a life-long bond between the mother and child. It also equips the child with sound physical and emotional health to take life head on in the years to come.