World Breastfeeding Week: August 1-7 — According to the world Alliance of Breastfeeding Action (WABA), breastfeeding is essential to promote better health for mothers and children alike.
It is today the role of governments to protect women’s and children’s health and nutrition by developing appropriate policies and programs that support breastfeeding. The Global Breastfeeding Collective, led by UNICEF and WHO, has identified seven actions needed to enable women to breastfeed, including funding of breastfeeding programs, regulation of marketing of breast-milk substitutes, maternity protection in the workplace, compliance with the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, access to breastfeeding counselling and training, availability of community support programs, and consistent monitoring.
The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard periodically reviews national progress on implementing these seven actions. The goal of the Scorecard is to encourage progress, increase accountability, and document change for all countries as they take the necessary steps to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
According to WHO, Indonesia’s breastfeeding challenge is echoed the world over with few issues in early parenthood that seem as complex and emotionally charged. Although exclusive breastfeeding, that means feeding a baby without formula milk, is universally acknowledged to be the best form of nutrition to ensure healthy babies, especially in the first six months of life. Nonetheless, rates of exclusive breastfeeding worldwide including Indonesia, remain low, despite government efforts to implement international guidelines.
Here are some of the many benefits of breastfeeding:
Fighting infections and other conditions: Breastfed babies have fewer infections and hospitalizations than formula-fed infants. During breastfeeding, antibodies and other germ-fighting factors pass from a mother to her baby and strengthen the immune system. This helps lower a baby’s chances of getting many infections, including: ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and meningitis. Breastfeeding also may protect babies against: allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfeeding is particularly beneficial for premature babies: Nutrition and ease of digestion. Often called the “perfect food” for a human baby’s digestive system, breast milk’s components — lactose, protein (whey and casein), and fat — are easily digested by a newborn.
As a group, breastfed infants have less difficulty with digestion than do formula-fed infants. Breast milk tends to be more easily digested so that breastfed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea or constipation.
Breast milk also naturally contains many of the vitamins and minerals that a newborn requires. One exception is vitamin D — the AAP recommends that all breastfed babies begin receiving vitamin D supplements during the first 2 months and continuing until a baby consumes enough vitamin D-fortified formula or milk (after 1 year of age).
Smarter babies: Some studies suggest that children who were exclusively breastfed have slightly higher IQs than children who were formula fed.
Beneficial for mom, too: The ability to totally nourish a baby can help a new mother feel confident in her ability to care for her baby. Breastfeeding also burns calories and helps shrink the uterus, so nursing moms may be able to return to their pre-pregnancy shape and weight quicker. Also, studies show that breastfeeding helps lower the risk of breast cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and also may help decrease the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer.