Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to safeguard the health and survival of your child. Here are some important facts about breastfeeding, by the World Health Organization.
Most experts recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. At six months, solid foods can be introduced to the baby, which are - mashed fruits and vegetables. And these solid foods are complementary food along with breastfeeding that continues for up to two years or more.
Few more recommendations:
- Breastfeeding should start within one hour of birth
- Breastfeeding should be "on demand"
- Avoid using bottles or pacifiers
Breast milk: Ideal food
For newborns and infants, breast milk is the ideal food. It provides all the nutrients they require for healthy growth and development. It also protects your baby from childhood illness as it is enriched with antibodies that protect against illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. Moreover, breast milk is readily available and affordable.
Beneficial for the mothers
Exclusive breastfeeding can act as a natural method for birth control (though it is not fail-safe). Additionally, it decreases the chances of breast and ovarian cancer, postpartum depression and type II diabetes.
Breastfeeding has long-term benefits
In addition to the immediate advantages of breastfeeding for children, it also plays a role in imparting a lifetime of good health. It reduces the risk of overweight or obesity, and type-II diabetes. Moreover, children who were breastfed do better in intelligence tests.
There are few more facts about breastfeeding in addition to its benefits to the mother and baby.
HIV and breastfeeding
An HIV-infected mother can pass the HIV virus to her baby during pregnancy, delivery process and while breastfeeding. But, antiretroviral (ARV) therapy given to the mother or HIV-exposed baby can decrease the chances of transmission. Breastfeeding along with ARV therapy can reduce the chances of getting infected.
Support for mothers is important
Adapting to breastfeeding regimen comes over a period of time by learning and several women face problems initially. Routine practices, such as mother and baby separation or nurseries, can make breastfeeding difficult for the mothers and babies. Health facilities can support breastfeeding by providing counsellors to encourage a new mother to breastfeed the baby.
Work and breastfeeding
Many working mothers are forced to abandon breastfeeding (partly or totally) when they resume work after childbirth because they do not have adequate time or a suitable place to breastfeed, express and store their milk. Therefore, mothers require a safe, hygienic and private place near their workplace to continue breastfeeding.
The next step: Starting with solid foods
Once the baby is six months of age, mashed solid food should be introduced to meet his/her growing needs. Solid food should be introduced as a complement to continued breastfeeding. Foods for the baby can be exclusively prepared or altered from the family meals. During this phase, experts have the following suggestion to make:
- Do not decrease the breastfeeding when starting on solids
- Use a spoon or cup when giving food and avoid using a bottle
- Use clean and safe food
- World Health Organization. 10 facts on breastfeeding. Cited 2016 May 10; Updated 2015 July. Available from: http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/breastfeeding/en/.