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World BreastFeeding Week

Motherhood begins the moment you hold that tiny tot in your arms, feel his tiny limbs and hold him close to your breasts and feed him. It is the most liberating experience for a new mother and a very powerful psychological experience which sets the foundations of a strong bond between the mother and child & in a way serves as a 'health insurance' for the infant in the years to come.

Every year 1-7th August is celebrated as World Breastfeeding Week by the WHO and UNICEF as an effort to promote breast feeding. As interns during our MBBS days, we were made to go into the community and explain the new mothers and the would be mothers the importance of breast feeding their infants post pregnancy, the correct technique of breast feeding, clear their myths and misconceptions and educate them so that they are able to achieve a successful lactation. What makes breastfeeding such an important agenda for WHO is the simple calculated fact that breastfeeding can prevent deaths of at least one million children every year which is also the top most priority in developing countries like India.

Infants grow the fastest during the first 6 months. This is the time to make sure they get sufficient fluid and adequate food which is a balanced composition of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals and
vitamins. Nature offers this perfect diet in the form of breast milk. In fact breast milk is such a complete and ideal food that no other food is required by the baby until 6 months after birth. It is for
this very reason that WHO advocates the norm of "Exclusive Breast Feeding” for 6 months, which means giving nothing orally other than Colostrum and breast milk. Not even water in the summer season.

An important practice, more of a malpractice actually, observed in the Indian societies is to dismiss the first milk which is produced just after the baby is born as 'dirty and useless' owing to its colour and
consistency. This is actually the colostrum which forms the basis of the immune system for the baby. It carries the ready-made antibodies(like Ig A) and cells like leucocytes which help fight and ward off any
foreign body which enters the baby's system. It acts as a natural Laxative for the baby and helps the new born's digestive system to grow and function. By the end of 3-5 days after birth Colostrum
changes to mature milk.

Mature milk also contains antimicrobial factors (such as macro-phages, lymphocytes, secretory IgA, anti-streptococcal factor, lysozyme and lactoferrin). This forms the Passive immunity for the Baby protecting it against diarrhoreal diseases, respiratory infections and gastro intestinal infections. The Breast milk has a very specific long chain omega 3 fatty acid DHA(DocosaHexanoic Acid) and it is important as it leads to better visual acquity & overall neurological development including an IQ which is 8 points higher than a non-breast fed baby. The action of sucking helps in the development of Jaws and teeth of the baby. The incidence of scurvy and rickets; and also the tendency to obesity is highly reduced in babies on breast milk.                                                                                                                                                            

There is a reason why we are attached more to our mothers. And it stems from the emotional connection we developed, when our mothers nursed us, for it alone is the most powerful human contact. Breastfeeding has advantages for the mother as well. As she feeds her infant, she  boosts her own immune system, lowers her chances of postpartum haemorrages, anaemia and gains protection from ovarian cancers, breast cancers and osteoporosis.

Women has the strength to bear a life within her and then provide that life with a wholesome meal right out of her own body. What else can be more fulfilling than this! The benefits of breast feeding last a life time. So all the-new-moms-to-be make sure you choose breast milk for your baby over formula feeds because its the best gift you will be giving him and offering him the best health insurance cover even before he turns one.

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