World Breastfeeding Week 1-7 August 2016
Breastfeeding: A key to
Breastfeeding decreases the risk of a number of diseases in both mothers and babies.
Health Effects of Breast Milk
Breast milk contains several anti-infective factors such as bile salt stimulated lipase (protecting against amoebic infections) and lactoferrin (which binds to iron and inhibits the growth of intestinal bacteria).
Infants who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months are less likely to die of gastrointestinal infections than infants who switched from exclusive to partial breastfeeding at three to four months.
During breastfeeding, approximately 0.25–0.5 grams per day of secretory IgA antibodies pass to the baby via milk. This is one of the important features of colostrum. The main target for these antibodies are probably microorganisms in the baby’s intestine. The rest of the body displays some uptake of IgA, but this amount is relatively small.
Maternal vaccinations while breastfeeding is safe for almost all vaccines. Additionally, the mother’s immunity obtained by vaccination against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and influenza can protect the baby from these diseases, and breastfeeding can reduce fever rate after infant immunization. However, smallpox and yellow fever vaccines increase the risk of infants developing vaccinia and encephalitis.
Breastfeeding aids maternal physical and emotional health. Breastfeeding and depression in the mother are associated. Mothers who successfully breastfeed are less likely to develop postpartum depression.
Hormones released during breastfeeding help to strengthen the maternal bond. Support for a breastfeeding mother can strengthen familial bonds and help build a paternal bond.
Recommendations By World Organizations
WHO’s guidelines recommend “continue frequent, on-demand breastfeeding until two years of age or beyond.”
The European Commission, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, AAP, Save The Children and the UK National Health Service (NHS), Australian Department of Health, Health Canada, Canadian Paediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada, and Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months following birth and continued nursing for an additional eighteen months or more. Save the Children states, “Six months of exclusive breastfeeding increases a child’s chance of survival at least six-fold.”