Breast Feeding is the Best Start in Infant’s Life: India's National Nutrition Week

Breastfeeding symbol

Breastfeeding symbol (Photo credit: Topinambour)

By Santosh Jain Passi - Associate Professor in Nutrition, Institute of Home Economics, Vandana Sabharwal - Research Scholar, Institute of Home Economics

1st – 7th September is Celebrated as National Nutrition Week in India.

New Delhi, Sep 7, 2012 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB India) Breast-milk is natural and perfect food for the baby. WHO recommends that all infants should be fed exclusively on breast-milk until they are six months of age and continued to be breastfed till two years or beyond along with the introduction of adequate complementary foods after six months of age. Breast-milk provides uniquely appropriate concentrations of almost all the nutrients for infants at the time when the growth and development rates are maximal. Mother’s milk comprises of White Blood Cells (leucocytes), macrophages and epithelial cells; lipids (triacylgycerols, free fatty acids, phospholipids, sterols, hydrocarbons and fat soluble vitamins); carbohydrates (lactose, galactose, glucose, oligosaccharides, and glycoproteins); protein (casein, α-lactalbumin, lactoferrin, immunoglobins like SlgA and others, lysozymes, enzymes, harmones and growth factors); non-protein nitrogenous compounds (urea, creatine, creatinine, uric acid, amino acids including glutamine, nucleic acid, nucleotides and polyamines), water soluble vitamins, macronutrient elements, trace elements and various non nutritional components (anti-microbial factors, digestive enzymes and growth modulators) that promote the infant’s growth and development.

In comparison to artificial feeding, breastfeeding is associated with lower morbidity and mortality at all ages. Recent child survival data have reported that promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for first six months and continued breastfeeding for 6 - 11 months is the single most effective intervention that reduces under-5 child mortality by 13 - 15 per cent. In another study, it is reported that 16 per cent of neonatal deaths could be averted if all infants were breastfed from the first day of childbirth and 22 per cent if breastfeeding was started within the first hour itself. Breastfeeding is protective against several infections including diarrhea and respiratory infections, in addition to many chronic problems like hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases and others. Breastfed babies have shown to have a higher Intelligence Quotient. It enhances emotional bond between the child and the mother, provides warmth, love/ affection and is, thus, much more than just a food.  Breast-milk is clean, free from bacteria and has anti-infective factors as well as it is readily available to the baby when she/he wants, needs no preparation and is at right temperature. In addition to this, it is economical (particularly for our poorer sectors) and free from contamination.

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for the mother too. It reduces anemia.  Obesity is less common among nursing mothers as it helps the mother to regain her normal figure. It is protective against breast and ovarian cancers. Exclusive breastfeeding has contraceptive effect during first 6 month postpartum.  Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are better adjusted with their babies as far as rearing and behavioral adjustments are concerned. Breastfeeding is beneficial for the society as it lowers health care cost by reducing illness among children and thus, reduces the financial strain on the family.  Fewer sickness in children as a reward of breastfeeding, allows the mothers to attend to their work more efficiently and thus, accrue greater cost benefits to their employers as well. Hence like mother’s love there is no substitute for mother’s milk.

(PIB Features)

Disclaimer:  The views expressed by the authors in this article are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or WBRi.

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