By Damelza Harris-Olsen With AFP RelaxNews
August 1 to 7 marks World Breastfeeding Week 2018, celebrated every year to encourage and support breastfeeding in an effort to improve the health of babies around the world.
Here we round up ten facts about breastfeeding and how it can benefit both mother and baby.
#1. The Ideal Food
The WHO states that breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants, providing all the nutrients they need for healthy development, including antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide.
#2. Saves Lives
Only about 36% of infants aged zero to six months worldwide were exclusively breastfed over the period of 2007-2014. The lives of over 820,000 children could be saved every year among children under five years, if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed.
#3. Best For Newborns
WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is six months old to promote health.
#4. Natural Vaccination
Skin-to-skin contact along with suckling at the breast both help to stimulate the production of breastmilk, including colostrum, also called the baby’s ‘first vaccine,’ which is extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies.
#5. Recommended Til Two Years Of Age
To meet the growing needs of babies at six months of age, parents can introduce nutritionally-adequate and safe complementary foods while continuing to breastfeed up to two years of age or beyond.
#6. Critical Source Of Energy & Nutrients During Illness
Breast milk can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between the ages of six and 12 months, and one third of energy needs between 12 and 24 months. It is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness.
#7. Better Outcomes Later In Life
Breastfeeding also helps boost health later in life, with teens and adults who were breastfed less likely to be overweight or obese and less likely to have type II diabetes. It is also associated with better school attendance, better performance in intelligence tests, and higher income in adult life.
#8. Reduces Medical Risks In Mothers
Exclusive breastfeeding can also benefit moms, reducing the risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression.
#9. A Form Of Birthcontrol (though not 100%)
Due to its hormonal effect breastfeeding is also associated with a natural (though not fail-safe) method of birth control known as the Lactation Amenorrhea Method, which gives 98 percent protection in the first six months after birth and can help space pregnancies.
#10. Even HIV-Infected Mums Can Breastfeed
For infants born to HIV-infected mothers, antiretroviral drugs are now available to allow these children to exclusively breastfeed until they are six months old and continue breastfeeding until at least 12 months of age with a significantly reduced risk of HIV transmission.