For the life-long well-being of children, doctors recommend early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour, exclusive breastfeeding for first six months and continued breastfeeding for at least two years.
However, there are several other barriers to breastfeeding children including ignorance of benefits of breastfeeding, improper advice from friends and family leading to supplement breast milk with formula, lack of support for working mothers from employers in providing environment conducive for breastfeeding, and lack of trained health workers who can guide new mothers about the right techniques of breastfeeding. With no additional burden on household income, breastfeeding is a low-priced way of feeding babies and contributes to poverty reduction.
Breast milk contains the entire nutrient that an infant needs for the first six months of life.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every year from August 1 to August 7 across the world to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies.
Mothers who may experience challenges with breastfeeding such as engorgement, nipple pain/trauma or when the baby won't latch to the breast are encouraged to visit their nearest clinic for assistance. It is important to note there are circumstances that make it challenging or not possible to breastfeed. Making sure women have the information and resources they need to make the choice that is best for them and their baby is hopefully something we can all support.
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According to a research by World Health Organization and UNICEF, breastfeeding babies for the first two years would annually save the lives of more than 8,20,000 children under five years of age.
Breastfeeding is beneficial for mothers as well since it helps them to lose weight faster. Babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of their lives have lower risk of respiratory infection, sudden infant death syndrome and fewer bouts of diarrhea.
No one can deny the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the well-being of both the infant and the mother. "Mothers' milk has living antibodies that protect the baby from getting sick". Supportive healthcare systems, adequate maternity leave entitlements, workplace interventions, counselling and educational programmes can all help to improve breastfeeding rates.
Promoting, supporting and protecting breastfeeding is one way we can help give our children a strong foundation for optimal development. Breastfeeding prevents hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, and ensures food security for babies, even in times of crises.