Early feeding not only meets immediate nutritional needs of growing child, but also does metabolic "programming" of the baby, which influences her susceptibility to chronic diseases in later years. Health benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. Some of them have been metioned below.
Breastfeeding is more than just a method of feeding. It is a lifestyle choice ~ Dr. William Sears.
Nutrition in early years of life lays foundation for life-long health of your child. Early feeding not only meets immediate nutritional needs of growing child, but also does metabolic "programming" of the baby, which influences her susceptibility to chronic diseases in later years.
Breastfeeding is the species specific natural way to feed infants: to fulfill immediate and long term development needs and reduce chances of common infections,
World Health Organization (WHO) recommends optimal Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) i.e.
i. exclusive breastfeeding (not even water) for the first 6 months
ii. introduction of appropriate and adequate liquid-semisolid-solid family foods at 6 months with
iii. continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond.
Feeding as laid out above reduces the risk of chronic diseases in your child i.e. type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, asthma, allergies and even some cancers. Breastfeeding also helps lowers blood pressure, obesity and cardiovascular disease risk in later years. On the other hand, consumption of formula is associated with a high (upto 200%) increase in risks of these diseases!
However, to ensure successful breastfeeding a "continuum of care" is required, which includes:
1. Informative and empowering sessions during pregnancy explaining benefits of optimal breastfeeding for both the mother and the child.
2. Assistance during and immediately after delivery- for early initiation (within one hour) of breastfeeding.
3. Hand holding for first few weeks to provide encouragement, identify and solve early problems and ensure exclusive breastfeeding for first 6 months.
4. Information & support to introduce adequate and appropriate complementary foods at 6 months and continue breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond.
This information and support provided during pre, peri and post natal stages of pregnancy helps new mothers getting prepared on what to expect and how to handle the upcoming events in their lives.
Also, societal support matters a lot for mothers to adopt and sustain breastfeeding, as a healthy lifestyle choice. Let's make a difference by supporting and encouraging mothers in the hospitals, families, friends, immediate community and workplace to choose breastfeeding for a healthy world.