Breast milk is the best way to feed infants with the nutrients they need. Early initiation of breastfeeding, within 1 hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. Breastfeeding is highly recommended because of following reasons:
- your breast milk is perfectly designed for your baby
- breast milk protects your baby from infections and diseases
- breastfeeding provides health benefits for you
- breast milk is available for your baby whenever your baby needs it
- breastfeeding can build a strong emotional bond between you and your baby
- Breast milk adapts as your baby grows to meet your baby’s changing needs
Formula milk doesn’t provide the same protection from illness and doesn’t give you any health benefit.
Also Breastfeeding has long-term benefits for your baby, lasting right into adulthood. Any amount of breast milk has a positive effect. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts and the greater the benefits.
Breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of:
- infections, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
- diarrhoea and vomiting, with fewer visits to hospital as a result
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- childhood leukaemia
- type 2 diabetes
- cardiovascular disease in adulthood
Breastfeeding and making breast milk also has health benefits for you. The more you breastfeed, the greater the benefits. Breastfeeding lowers your risk of:
- breast cancer
- ovarian cancer
- osteoporosis (weak bones)
- cardiovascular disease
Infants should be exclusively breastfed – i.e. receive only breast milk – for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health followed by complementary foods at six months (180 days) of age in addition to breast milk.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.