Breastfeeding is like the basic foundation that has long-lasting impacts on a baby’s health and development. It not only helps the baby start healthy, but also helps build a very unique and strong emotional bonding between the mother and her child. This has also been supported and proved scientifically. This issue of NNI publication mentions the same and provides the reader with the scientific reports and records of the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. It also includes the reports and quotes of some renowned gynaecologists, obstetricians and paediatricians about different topics related to the impacts of breastfeeding on the baby.
Human milk is the optimal source of nutrition for the infant and young children and has bioactive components that safeguard infant growth and development. Depriving infants from this invaluable nutrition leads to various undesirable consequences. In 2011, WHO reported global childhood mortality rates (0–4 years) to be 51.4 per 1000 live births. In the same year, the infant mortality rates in India were reported to be 47 per 1000 live births. Infectious diseases, particularly, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections, contribute significantly to infant mortality. Breastfeeding offers protection against infectious disease related morbidity and mortality in infants and children. Optimum growth and development is acquired through exclusive breastfeeding. Both physical as well as mental development are associated with productivity and economic growth of an individual and hence the country.
Human milk is the only recommended food for infants. It contains phagocytic and immunocompetent cells, provides optimal nutrition and promotes maturation of the intestinal mucosa. Furthermore, it protects against several acute and chronic diseases. The incidence as well as severity of diarrhoea, lower respiratory infection, otitis media, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infection, and necrotising enterocolitis, is known to be reduced with breastfeeding. Furthermore, protection against sudden infant death syndrome, type 1 diabetes mellitus, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, lymphoma, allergic diseases and other chronic digestive diseases, has also been reported with breastfeeding. Another major benefit is the enhancement of cognitive development in infants. In addition to providing invaluable benefits to infants, breastfeeding is also beneficial for the mothers. Women who breastfeed are known to have a lower incidence of hip fractures after menopause, ovarian and premenopausal breast cancer, and less postpartum bleeding. Owing to all these benefits, healthcare professionals, all over the world, strongly recommend breastfeeding.
In addition to offering several health benefits to the infants and mothers, breastfeeding is also economical due to the reduced healthcare costs (due to less illness) and saved time and wages lost while attending an ill child. Thus, breastfeeding should be promoted among mothers. Supporting new mothers, especially during pregnancy, hospital stay and early post discharge, regarding early initiation, correct positioning & attachment is crucial for successful breastfeeding.