Breastfeed Your Baby For First 6 Months For Stronger Immunity

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1st to 7th August every year in order to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. The week commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed by UNICEF, WHO and other organizations to promote and support breastfeeding.

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This year UNICEF and WHO are working to promote the significance of family-friendly policies which can help parents develop and nurture the bond with their child at an early age. Some of these policies include enacting paid maternity leave for a period of 8 months and paid paternity leave to promote the shared responsibility that both the parents have for their children. Other policies include a clean and hygienic place at workplace for mothers to breastfeed their children.

Why Breastfeeding is important?

The early milk produced after the baby's birth is called colostrum. Colostrum has high levels of antibodies and white blood cells, it is thick and sticky and often termed as "liquid gold". It is so-called because it is vital for the nourishment of the new-born and protects the baby against various infections and diseases. The major components of breast milk include immune-boosting white blood cells, proteins, oligosaccharides, more than 40 enzymes, growth factors, vitamins, minerals, antibodies, and fatty acids. 

The babies who are breastfed for the first 6 months have stronger immunity than those who are not. Breastfeeding has also been linked to a higher IQ level in later childhood. Breastfed infants are likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow. As per AAP- the “American Academy of Paediatrics” breastfeeding also plays a significant role in the prevention of SIDS - Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is 6 months old is recommended by WHO. Complimentary food can be added after six months of age while continuing to breastfeed the baby up to 2 years.

Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers to develop breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and ovarian cancer. 

As per the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS -4), in India, only 42.6 per cent mothers start breastfeeding within one hour of birth despite the fact that 78.9 per cent deliveries take place in healthcare facilities. Also, only 54.9 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. All these statistics indicate that India needs to work more on imparting awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. 

Even though breastfeeding is imperative for the growth of the baby, certain myths revolve around it:

Myth: Breastfeeding causes breasts to sag

Truth – Droopy breasts are a result of pregnancy. This happens because hormonal changes cause the underneath ligaments to stretch and loosen. As the mother gains weight, breasts become larger and heavier, leading to the sagginess of the breasts.

Myth: Small breasts create difficulty in producing the right amount of milk to feed the baby.

Truth – Size of the breasts doesn’t matters when it comes to breastfeeding the baby. The breast tissues grow in response to pregnancy regardless, whatever breast size a woman has.

Myth: You cannot breastfeed if you've had breast-reduction or breast-augmentation surgery.

Truth – The implants inserted are usually near the armpit or under the breast tissue. Therefore, they do not interfere with breastfeeding. 

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