World Breastfeeding Week: All you need to know about the benefits of breast milk | fitness | Hindustan Times
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World Breastfeeding Week: All you need to know about the benefits of breast milk

Breast milk should be administered for a minimum of six months of the child’s life. It contains antibodies that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria.

fitness Updated: Aug 02, 2017 16:22 IST
Breastfeeding ensures healthy growth and development of the child.
Breastfeeding ensures healthy growth and development of the child. (Shutterstock)

To-be parents, take note. It’s important for infants to be breastfed. World Health Organization (WHO) recognises breast milk as the best nutritional food source for infants, which should be available to babies deprived of their mother’s milk. WHO and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding should commence within one hour of the child’s birth. It should be administered during the first six months of the child’s life and should ideally continue till the age of two to ensure the healthy growth and development of the child apart from reducing the rate of child mortality.

India faces its own set of unique health challenges, one of them being the high vulnerability associated with pre-term babies who are significantly underweight. According to WHO, undernutrition is associated with 45% of child deaths. Fortis La Femme along with Breast Milk Foundation supports World Breastfeeding Week through its pioneering initiative, ‘Amaraa’ the first Pasteurized Human Milk Bank in Delhi/NCR, launched last year in collaboration with the Breast Milk Foundation. The objective of Amaraa is to provide all premature and critically-ill babies with human breast milk. Through this initiative an opportunity is provided to all qualified donors across Delhi/NCR to donate their milk. Fortis La Femme helps us understand the importance of breastfeeding and its sustained benefits.

Breastfeeding lowers the baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. (Shutterstock)

Why is breastfeeding important?

Breast milk contains antibodies that help the baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers the baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Additionally, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhoea. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age.

How long does one have to breastfeed for it to be beneficial?

The longer one nurses (giving little or no formula), the more profound and long-lasting the benefits. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for at least the rest of the first year, or longer if desired by mother and baby.

Why is breastfeeding better than formula feeding?

Breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalisations than formula-fed infants. During breastfeeding, antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from a mother to her baby and strengthen the immune system. This helps lower a baby’s chances of getting any infections.

Breastfeeding reduces the rate of child mortality. (Shutterstock)

What are the nutrients found in breast milk?

Mature milk contains water, fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, amino acids, enzymes and white cells. Over the course of a feeding, breast milk changes from foremilk, high in water and lactose, to hind milk - high in fat and calories.

Dr Raghuram Mallaiah, director, Neonatology, Fortis La Femme said, “There are a number of instances in which mothers who have delivered preterm babies are unable to breast feed their babies due to prematurity and stress of having a preterm baby. In these cases, pasteurised donor milk is recommended as an essential alternative. It is an established fact that donor milk in these circumstances can be life-saving and hugely protective from infections for these very preterm and low birth weight babies. The milk bank which provides pasteurised breast milk is the only hope for these vulnerable babies in our society.”

Globally, Human Milk banking is a common practice, but in India there are only 20 such human milk banks that exist as per the Indian Academy of Paediatrics. Key reasons for this are lack of awareness among the public, taboos associated with the consumption of milk from a donor mother along with the promotion and easy access to formula milk.

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