August is observed as National Breastfeeding Month and August 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Week. The World Health Organization (WHO) states, “Every year, countries around the world observe World Breastfeeding Week for a good reason: breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to provide children everywhere with the best start to life.” Breastfeeding is definitely the best nutrition a mother can give to her baby, as the nutritional properties of breast milk cannot be compared to formula milk. Breastfeeding also offers health benefits for the mother.
According to a Healthline article, the rate of breastfeeding is as low as 30% in some groups of women, as some are unable to breastfeed and others simply choose not to. The WHO’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2018 is “Breastfeeding: Foundation for Life” – a recognition of the importance of breastfeeding to a baby’s future. Feeding babies just breast milk for the first six months helps them to grow healthily, prevents under-nutrition, promotes brain development, and reduces the risk of obesity.
As an awareness month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has funded a breastfeeding campaign with the aim to empower women to commit to breastfeeding by highlighting new research showing that babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, and may be less likely to develop childhood obesity.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that babies should be breastfed exclusively for first 6 months (without any solid foods) and that this should be continued for at least 12 months along with solid foods. Breast milk is a nutritionally balanced meal that provides essential nutrients as well as antibodies to protect newborns against infectious disease.
Studies have shown that breastfeeding lowers rates of childhood obesity (that can lead to adult obesity, insulin resistance, depression, anxiety, and poor learning), sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), allergic diseases and asthma. Some studies indicate that breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop problems with behavior and learning as they grow older compared to formula fed babies.
The science-based benefits of breastfeeding for mothers are as follows:
- Lowers breast cancer risk: Breastfeeding is believed to lower risk of pre and post-menopausal breast cancer. During lactation, it is common for women to experience hormonal changes which can delay menstrual periods. This delay can reduce a woman’s lifetime exposure to hormones like oestrogen which promote breast cancer cell growth. Also, women tend to shed breast tissue during pregnancy and breastfeeding, which can help remove cells with potential DNA damage, thus helping to reduce chances of developing breast cancer.
- Tends to lower weight: According to Healthline, mothers whobreastfeed tend to lose weight after the first 3 months of delivery. Your body stores fat during your pregnancy to provide the extra calories needed for milk production, and while feeding, these fats are burned, resulting in weight loss.Beginning around 3-6 months after delivery, mothers who breastfeed have been shown to lose more weight than mothers who don’t breastfeed.
- Promotes mother-baby bonding: Research also shows that breastfeeding may have physical and emotional benefits for both mother and baby. It is said that while the baby is snuggled close to the mother’s breast, it can quickly recognizethe mother’s heartbeat, which invokes a feeling of calmness and protection in the baby. Oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’ that helps nurture emotional bonding, is also higher in breastfeeding moms.
So let’s spread awareness of ‘Importance of Breastfeeding’ as it is indeed the foundation for life that provides growing children a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential.