Each year, World Breast Feeding Week is held for the first seven days in August. The goal of World Breast Feeding Week is to highlight the benefits of breast feeding on the health and welfare of babies throughout the world.
Breast milk is easy digested, readily available, and provides optimal nutrition for babies.
1. Breast milk contains the ideal nutrition a baby needs for the first 6 months of life.
- During the first few days after birth, the breasts produce colostrum. Colostrum is high in protein, low in sugar, and helps the baby’s digestive tract develop. Colostrum is the ideal first food.
- After a few days, the breasts produce larger amounts of milk that contains all the necessary nutrients except for vitamin D. Therefore, breast fed babies should be supplemented with vitamin D drops.
2. Breast milk contains high amounts of antibodies.
- Colostrum contains high amounts of immunoglobulin A, as well as several other antibodies. Immunoglobulin A protects the baby from getting sick by forming a protective layer in the baby’s nose, throat and digestive system.
- When the mother is exposed to infections such as viruses and bacteria, she starts producing antibodies. The mother’s antibodies are then secreted into the breast milk and passed along to the baby during feeding. These antibodies help prevent and fight illness.
3. Research has shown that breastfeeding may reduce a baby’s risk of infections and diseases.
- 3 or more months of exclusive breastfeeding may reduce the risk of ear infections by 50%, while any breastfeeding may reduce it by 23%.
- Exclusive breastfeeding for more than 4 months reduces the risk of hospitalization for respiratory tract infections by up to 72%.
- Babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months may have up to a 63% lower risk of getting serious colds and ear or throat infections.
- Breastfeeding is linked with a 64% reduction in gut infections, seen for up to 2 months after breastfeeding stops.
- Exclusive breastfeeding for at least 3–4 months is linked with a 27–42% reduced risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis and eczema.
- Babies who are breastfed at the time of first gluten exposure have a 52% lower risk of developing celiac disease.
- Babies who are breastfed may be roughly 30% less likely to develop childhood inflammatory bowel disease.
- Breastfeeding for 6 months or longer is linked with a 15–20% reduction in the risk of childhood leukemia.
4. Breast milk promotes a healthy weight and helps prevent childhood obesity.
- Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage. Breast milk also contains leptin, a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage.
- Breastfed babies self-regulate their milk intake and feed only until they have satisfied their hunger, which helps them develop healthy eating patterns.
- Studies show that obesity rates are 15–30% lower in breastfed babies, compared to formula-fed babies.
As an added bonus, breastfeeding allows you to sit down, put your feet up and relax while you bond with your precious baby.
Learn about GI Alliance here.