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What is Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is when you feed your baby breast milk, usually directly from your breast. It’s also called nursing. Making the decision to breastfeed is a personal matter. It’s also one that’s likely to draw opinions from friends and family.

Not only does breastfeeding boost your baby’s physical and mental development, it also protects your own health. Here, we break down the advantages of breastfeeding for Mom and Baby.

Adequate nutrition for infants is essential for their growth, health and vitality in order for them to achieve their full potentials. It has been recognised worldwide that breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and child, as breast milk is considered the best source of nutrition for an infant. Economic and social benefits are also provided to the family, the health care system and the employer.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, followed by breastfeeding along with complementary foods for up to two years of age or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding as defined by WHO and UNICEF is the practice whereby an infant receives only breast milk from the mother or a wet nurse or expressed breast milk. The WHO and UNICEF, both recommend that mothers should breastfeed their child exclusively for the first 6 months and continue breastfeeding up to 2 years or longer rather than stop exclusive breastfeeding practice as from 4-6 months.
Exclusive breastfeeding can also be defined as a practice whereby the infants receive only breast milk without mixing it with water, other liquids, tea, herbal preparations or food in the first six months of life, with the exception of vitamins, mineral supplements or medicines.
Where the mother cannot effectively breastfeed the infant, the breast milk can be expressed using the hand, a manual pump or electric pump. Some reasons for expressing breast milk include; resumption of work by the mother, sore nipples which needs to heal, comfort due to sudden weaning, to increase supply, etc.

Breastmilk which is the most natural food available for infant is unique whereby its nutritional composition varies from mother to mother, from day to day, during the day and during a feed. Human milk contains several factors such as immunoglobulin, T lymphocytes, enzymes such as lysozymes, phagocytes among others which are not present in breast milk substitute.

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include;
1)Lowered risk of infections for the child.
2)Improved brain, bone and eye support for the infant.
3)Conferment of passive natural immunity.
4)Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and post partum depression.

In conclusion, the benefits of breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized as its provides the necessary nutrition and nutrients needed for the optimal growth of the child.

Courtesy: Pharm. Obinna okpara for PharmahubNG


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