Skip to main content

Discovering the Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding provides the ideal nutrition for a baby and provides many health benefits for both mother and baby.  In fact, breast milk has disease-fighting antibodies that can help protect infants from several types of illnesses and is possibly the most important way of ensuring health and survival.  

Studies confirm that women who have breastfed their children have lower risks of major health conditions such as ovarian cancer, breast cancer and type 2 diabetes.  Breastfeeding has also been linked to lower rates of obesity and has been found to help women return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster.  

A Global Deficiency 

Globally less than 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed according to the World Health Organization (WHO).   Adequate breastfeeding support for mothers and families could save many young lives through improving the best source of nourishment for infants and young children – breast milk.  

Breast milk is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate sustenance.  WHO strongly recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. At six months, other foods should complement breastfeeding for up to two years or more. In addition: 

  • breastfeeding should begin within an hour of birth
  • breastfeeding should be "on demand", as often as the child wants day and night
  • bottles or pacifiers should be avoided.

 Breastfeeding Protects Babies

A recent study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences showed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren't breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk.

Breast milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that a child would not receive any other way.  Diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia and other devastating infantile conditions can be greatly reduced by simply breastfeeding.  Breast milk is also very easy to digest and readily absorbed in comparison to artificial formulas.  

A strong correlation has been found between breastfeeding and a lifetime of good health.  Adults who were breastfed as babies often have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, rates of obesity and type-2 diabetes.  Breastfeeding can also protect against the development of allergies and other immune system related conditions.  

Is Infant Formula Bad?

Infant formula does not contain any of the necessary antibodies found in breast milk. One of the most common challenges that can put a child at risk is how the formula is prepared.  Risk factors include unsafe water, unsterilized equipment and bacteria laced powdered formulas. 

Severe malnutrition can result from not breastfeeding, over-relying and over-diluting the formula.  Breastfeeding is the most cost-efficient way to nourish a child as long as the breast milk supply lasts.  

HIV & Breastfeeding

HIV is a growing concern throughout the world and proactive steps must be taken to reduce the risk of mother-child transmission.  A mother can pass the infection during pregnancy, delivery and through breastfeeding.  Antiretroviral (ARV) intervention can significantly reduce the risk of transmission through breast feeding.  

How Long Should I Breastfeed?

It is important to add complementary foods as the child continues to grow at six months of age and beyond.  Breastfeeding should not be replaced or decreased with the addition of food.  Children require the nutrients and antibodies found in breast milk for the first two years or more.  

Breastfeeding is the most important health-building and disease-fighting strategy for mothers and children alike. Consult with your healthcare professional for specific recommendations on how to incorporate this cost-effective and life-saving strategy.

Dr. Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and columnist for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications throughout the world. He works in collaboration with the World Health Organization's goals of disease prevention and global healthcare education. Views do not necessarily reflect endorsement.

Facebook: Dr Cory Couillard
Twitter: DrCoryCouillard


Popular posts from this blog

Can we now cure HIV in newborns?

Doctors are reporting that a child born with HIV that was put on an unusually aggressive treatment regimen has been functionally cured of the infection. Using the most sensitive HIV testing available, they were able to find only trace amounts of HIV "particles" but no virus capable of replicating, the research team reported.

"If there is a trial that shows this can happen again, then this will be very important," said Dr. Karin Nielsen, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. "You'll be able to treat people very intensively and reverse the disease."

The news provides no answers for adults living with HIV but it can be a landmark victory in the health of future generations. Every year, 300,000 to 400,000 babies are born infected with HIV according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.

The treatment consisted of giving the newborn a three-drug…

Non-communicable diseases ravaging the poorest

The convergence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and infectious diseases (IDs) in low- and middle-income countries presents major challenges to the world’s poorest and most neglected groups of people. NCDs continue to escalate and cause hundreds of billions of dollars of loss annually despite aggressive lifestyle campaigns.

A NCD is a medical condition or disease that is non-infectious and non-transmissible amongst people. NCDs may be chronic diseases of long duration and slow progression, or they may result in more rapid death such as some types stroke and heart attacks. Unknowingly to most, NCDs also include autoimmune diseases, many cancers, asthma, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and many more.

Most Low- to middle income countries has dual disease burdens of NCDs and IDs including tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and parasitic diseases. Unfortunately, experts, institutions and policies that support prevention and control of these two overarching disease categories have very limited int…

Strong health systems critical in addressing health threats in the African Region

Brazzaville, 8 April 2015 – The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti has called on the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Republic of Congo to advocate with their national governments to strengthen health systems to be able to address the health challenges facing the African Region. She briefed the diplomats about the on-going Ebola epidemic in West Africa, current and emerging health threats in the WHO African Region, progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the strategic priorities for WHO’s work in the Region for 2015-2020. The Regional Director underscored the importance of strong national health systems to be able to withstand epidemics and emergencies while delivering essential health services to people who need them most. Dr Moeti pointed out that the Ebola epidemic has had devastating impacts on families, livelihoods, security, health workforce, service delivery and overall socioeconomic development of the seve…