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World Breastfeeding Week: Benefits of breastfeeding for mother and her baby
In India, we lose 16.5 lakh children every year due to easily preventable diseases. Early initiation of breastfeeding alone can save the lives of 13 per cent of babies.

Breastfeeding is one of the single most effective nutrition interventions for saving lives. Mother's milk is undoubtedly the best food for babies. It is a living fluid and contains exactly the right amount of nutrients required by a baby, in the right proportions, to ensure that the baby gets the perfect balanced meal. Manufactured milk, no matter how fortified it may be, can come close to being as nutritious as breast milk.

Stressing on the need to educate the masses on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, Dr KK Aggarwal, Honorary Secretary General, Indian Medical Association (IMA) said, "It is the responsibility of the medical fraternity to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and advocate for better work laws that allow mothers to feed their child till up until two years of age. Workplaces should have a creche that allows the mother to interact with her baby every two hours."

Dr. Aggarwal added, "Benefits of both maternity and paternity leave should be extended to the new parents. It is also important to educate and train nurses and hospital staff on how to become effective counsellors to mothers. They can play a key role in encouraging early initiation of breastfeeding by teaching the mother how to hold her child, how often to feed, essential diet tips, etc."

Raising awareness, Dr Naveen Prakash Gupta, Consultant Neonatologist, Max Super Specialty Hospital, Patparganj said, "The first milk that flows out of a mother's breast is called colostrum, and it must not be discarded. It is packed with antibodies that increase a baby's immunity and protects a newborn's intestines and strengthens its respiratory system. Breastfeeding is of crucial importance for both the mother and her baby and must be initiated in the first hour of birth itself and carried on exclusively till six months. After that breastfeeding must be continued till up till two years along with complementary feeding."

While using stored breast milk, it is important to remember the milk must be used within 8 hours when kept at room temperature or 24 hours when refrigerated. The milk must not be heated and should be utilized after bringing to room temperature.

A breastfeeding mother must eat a healthy and balanced diet and should consume a minimum of 1.5 litres of water every day.

Here are benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and her baby:

  • Studies have shown that babies who have been artificially fed have higher chances of developing pneumonia, gastroenteritis, middle ear infections and various other health problems. Breastfed babies also react better to immunisations.

  • Breastfed babies have better brain development than their non-breastfed counterparts.

  • Babies who are fed milk formulae fortified with cow's milk or soy milk are more susceptible to developing allergies. Breast milk protects the infant's intestinal tract without which the wall of the intestine may get inflamed, thereby allowing undigested proteins to leak through and cause allergies.

  • Breastfeeding is beneficial for Premature Babies.

  • Non-breastfed babies have higher chances of growing into obese adults.

  • Breastfed babies grow differently to non-breastfed babies, and have separate growth rates and patterns.

  • Breastfed babies have lower chances of dying from a syndrome called Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

  • Breastfeeding helps to reduce the mother's stress levels and their chances of suffering from postpartum depression.

  • Breastfeeding for a prolonged period of time reduces the mother's chances of suffering from type 2 diabetes, ovarian or breast cancer in the future.

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