World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocent Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
Every year, countries around the world observe World Breastfeeding Week for a good reason: breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to provide children everywhere with the best start to life.
World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is 6 months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond. This is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.
Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.
“Breastfeeding is indeed the foundation for life and gives growing children a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential.”
For the first 2-4 days following birth, the mother’s breasts will secrete colostrum, a yellowish fluid rich in proteins. These are essential to the development of the baby’s healthy immune system.
Advantages of breastfeeding for the baby
- Superior nutrition
- Increased resistance to infections, hence fewer incidents of illness
- Decreased risk of allergies and lactose intolerance
- Breast milk is sterile
- Baby experiences less nappy rash and thrush
- Baby is less likely to develop allergies
- Baby experiences fewer stomach upsets and constipation
- Breastfeeding promotes the proper development of the baby’s jaw and teeth.
- Infants tend to have higher IQs due to good brain development early in life.
- Baby benefits emotionally since breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding.
- In the long term, breastfed babies have a decreased risk of malnutrition, obesity and heart disease compared to formula-fed babies.
Advantages of breastfeeding for the mother
- The baby’s sucking causes a mothers uterus to contract and reduces the flow of blood after delivery
- During lactation, menstruation ceases, offering a form of contraception
- Mothers who breastfeed tend to lose weight and achieve their pre-pregnancy figure more easily than mothers who bottle feed
- Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast cancer later in life
- Breastfeeding is more economical than formula feeding
- There are fewer trips to the doctor and less money is spent on medication
- Breastfeeding promotes mother-baby bonding
- Hormones released during breastfeeding create feelings of warmth and calm in the mother.
The decision to breast or formula feed remains your individual choice. However, breast milk is undoubtedly the best nutrition you can give your baby, with added benefits for you.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.