21 March 2012
New Delhi India
Dramatic health benefits have been proven to pass from a mother to her newborn through breast feeding. Experts say breast milk is packed with nutrients, vitamins and minerals and carries antibodies from the mother to help the baby combat life–threatening disease. The WHO and Union health ministry recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. They say breastfeeding should begin within an hour of birth and should be on demand, as often as the child wants day and night. However, fewer than 50% mothers in India follow this.
Swati Popat Vats, president of Early Childhood Association says when a baby is born, the only organ that is ready but not developed is the brain. Vats said “A baby is born with trillions of neurons which are not connected. The neurons require covering of a particular kind of fat which is essential for the child’s brain to develop. This fat is available in right amounts in the mother’s breast milk.
Breast milk also help build the child’s immune system.” Experts say nearly two–third of the brain weight is phospholipids and long–chain fatty acids. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and arachi–donic acid (AA) are key fatty acids. Human milk contains 30 times more DHA than cow’s milk. According to WHO, infants should get 20 mg DHA/kg every day. Breast–fed babies have at least eight points higher IQ in later life as compared to formulafed babies.
Dr Arun Gupta, chair of the Global Breastfeeding Initiative for Child Survival said starting to breastfeed immediately after birth increases chances of survival of babies. “If mothers start breastfeeding within an hour of birth, 22% babies who die in the first 28 days (about one million newborns each year) could be saved. Likelihood of death increases significantly each day the start of breastfeeding is further delayed,” Dr Gupta added.
Breast milk is also economical as the baby requires no other food or liquid, even water in the first six months. s“Exclusive breastfeeding is an important part of building optimal child nutrition during a baby’s first 1,000 days failing which the damage is irreversible,” Dr Gupta added. The milk produced in the first few days after childbirth, called colostrum, is rich in protective antibodies. It helps increase the baby's immunity, protects his intestines, and strengthens his respiratory system.