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Medically speaking, breastfeeding your baby for six months and continuing for up to two years with complementary feeds, is an ideal situation. But how many of today’s mothers are able to abide by this practice? The Global Strategy of Infant and Young Feeding, an initiative by the World Health Organisation and Unicef, also advocates breastfeeding for six months, followed by timely, adequate, safe and appropriate complementary feeding, while continuing breastfeeding for two years and beyond.
Breastfeeding is important for the short- and long-term health of children and women. Did you know that both the action of breastfeeding and the composition of the breast milk are important?
The action of breastfeeding helps the child’s jaw to develop as well as muscles such as the tongue and muscles of the Eustachian tube. This development reduces the incidence of ear infections, assists with clear speech, protects against dental caries and reduces the risk of orthodontic problems.
Breastfeeding also provides warmth, closeness and contact, which can help the physical and emotional development of the child.
Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to abandon or abuse their babies, and children who are breastfed are more likely to grow up to be well adjusted adults.
Breast milk itself is important for children for so many reasons. Human milk provides ideal nutrition to meet the infant’s needs for growth and development. It protects against many infections and reduces the risk of allergies and conditions such as juvenile-onset diabetes.
And a mother’s own milk is best suited to the individual child and to meet the individual baby’s changing needs.
However, even with these amazing benefits many women are increasingly abandoning breastfeeding. With all the different artificial baby milk substitutes around, many mothers are opting for these instead of the age-old way of mother-to-child breastfeeding.
A new study in New York found that in their children’s first two months of life, most new mothers have concerns about breastfeeding that make them consider giving up and switching to formula. Of the mothers surveyed when their babies were three days old, many were worried about breastfeeding, for different reasons, including that they weren’t making enough milk or that the infant wasn’t latching on well.
Other mothers said that their baby’s demands for milk were becoming too high long before six months and that forced them to start complementary feeds. “Post work, when I would feed my baby, no amount of milk was enough,” a 32-year-old banker stated. “Even though I knew the benefits of breast milk, I began formula feeds for the baby and she soon preferred the bottle. By the fourth month, she was refusing the breast!”
After facing these, and many other challenges, mothers opt to use replacement-feeding options, including infant formula.
These artificial commercial formulas have been modified and micro-nutrients have been added artificially.
It is important to remember that although the proportions of nutrients in commercial formula can be altered, their quality can never be the same, or as natural as breast milk.
In addition, the immune and growth factors present in breast milk are not present in formula milk, and even more importantly, these cannot be added to formula milk artificially.