Breast milk usually is the first food of a baby and is being produced by the mother in sufficient quantity and quality even in midst of energy or nutrient limitations. While breast milk plays a major role in growth and development of the baby, Colostrum, the yellowish, thick breast milk which is expressed at the end of pregnancy is of a very high nutritional value and is considered as the best food for the newborn.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a baby should be completely breastfed for the first 6 months of life, and breast milk is recognized as sufficient to support the growth and development of a child during this time period. After 6 months, the baby should be partially breastfed for another year or as long as mutually considered by the mother and the child. According to the recommendations, breastfeeding should be encouraged even after the introduction of complementary food at the 6th month as this is proven to offer health benefits to the child and the mother.
Mature breast milk is full of nutrition for the baby. It has constant optimum levels of carbohydrates and proteins, even though the amount of essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals could vary according to the maternal intake. Anyhow, even if these nutrients might be less in breast milk in the midst of nutritional limitations, the bioactivity and bioavailability of the available amount of nutrients is a lot higher than the formula milk and completely meets the needs of the neonates. Furthermore, human milk supplies the neonate with certain digestive enzymes along with certain fatty acids that are essential for the neurodevelopment of the baby. It is also well known that the baby’s first immunity is supplied by the Colostrum in the first few weeks, which helps him in fighting against any harmful infections around him.
It is surprising to see that the duration of breastfeeding is less in high-income countries when compared with low-income countries. Also, the importance of breastfeeding is less recognized in these well-developed countries. Anyhow, according to many studies, it is proven that breastfeeding provides the child with protection against pediatric infections, malocclusions, obesity, diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular diseases in advanced ages. Further, the reports show that the mortality rate of the breastfed children was low while their intelligence was high.
Breastfeeding does not only promote the health of the child. But also, it can improve the health of the mother. Many studies that evaluated the health benefits of breastfeeding showed that it provided protection against breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. According to a paper published on January 2016, promoting breastfeeding universally could prevent 823,000 childhood deaths and 20,000 breast cancer deaths per year.
Many women underestimate the importance of breastfeeding even in the absence of any contraindications. Therefore, breastfeeding is promoted in many maternal clinics with necessary counselling and training. Many health professionals encourage working mothers to feed their children with pumped milk instead of feeding them with formula milk during the working hours. Given the health benefits of the mother and the child, it is important to consider feeding your child with your own milk as another milestone, which must be fulfilled.
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