What is World Breastfeeding Week all about?
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries worldwide. It encourages breastfeeding and the improvement to the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policy-makers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.
Photo courtesy of docstop.com
Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.
If every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 220 000 child lives would be saved every year. Globally, less than 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed. Adequate breastfeeding counselling and support are essential for mothers and families to initiate and maintain optimal breastfeeding practices.
Photo courtesy of who.int
Photo courtesy of who.int
Health benefits for infants
Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development. It is safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide. Breast milk is readily available and affordable, which helps to ensure that infants get adequate nutrition.
Long-term benefits for children
Beyond the immediate benefits for children, breastfeeding contributes to a lifetime of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. They are less likely to have type-2 diabetes and perform better in intelligence tests.
Why not infant formula?
Infant formula does not contain the antibodies found in breast milk. When infant formula is not properly prepared, there are risks arising from the use of unsafe water and unsterilized equipment or the potential presence of bacteria in powdered formula. Malnutrition can result from over-diluting formula to "stretch" supplies. While frequent feeding maintains breast milk supply, if formula is used but becomes unavailable, a return to breastfeeding may not be an option due to diminished breast milk production.
HIV and breastfeeding
An HIV-infected mother can pass the infection to her infant during pregnancy, delivery and through breastfeeding. Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs given to either the mother or HIV-exposed infant reduces the risk of transmission. Together, breastfeeding and ARVs have the potential to significantly improve infants' chances of surviving while remaining HIV uninfected. WHO recommends that when HIV-infected mothers breastfeed, they should receive ARVs and follow WHO guidance for infant feeding.
Support for mothers is essential
Breastfeeding has to be learned and many women encounter difficulties at the beginning. Health facilities that support breastfeeding—by making trained breastfeeding counsellors available to new mothers—encourage higher rates of the practice.
Depending on temperature, humidity, and the infant’s weight and level of activity, the average daily fluid requirement for healthy infants ranges from 80–100 ml/kg in the first week of life to 140–160 ml/kg between 3–6 months. These amounts are available from breast milk alone if breastfeeding is exclusive and unrestricted (on-demand day and night) for two reasons:
Breast milk is 88 per cent water.
The water content of breast milk consumed by an exclusively breastfed baby meets the water requirements for infants and provides a considerable margin of safety. Even though a newborn gets little water in the thick yellowish first milk (colostrum), no additional water is necessary because a baby is born with extra water. Milk with higher water content usually “comes in” by the third or fourth day.
Breast milk is low in solutes.
One of the major functions of water is to flush out, through the urine, excess solutes. Dissolved substances (for example, sodium, potassium, nitrogen, and chloride) are referred to as solutes. The kidneys—though immature up to the age of approximately three months—are able to concentrate excess solutes in the urine to maintain a healthy, balanced body chemistry. Because breast milk is low in solutes, the infant does not need as much water as an older child or adult.
Water in breast milk exceeds the infant’s water requirements in normal conditions and is adequate for breastfed infants in hot, dry climates. Studies indicate that healthy, exclusively breastfed infants in the first six months of life do not require additional fluids even in countries with extremely high temperatures and low humidity. Solute levels in the urine and blood of exclusively breastfed babies living in these conditions were within normal ranges, indicating adequate water intakes.
For those in developing countries, access to clean, sterile drinking water is more of a problem. This lack of access encourages a breastfeeding mother to resort to drinking contaminated water to quench her thirst and feed her baby. However, drinking this contaminated water can make her ill, and deprive her of the necessary nutrients to keep her healthy and able to feed her growing baby. This in turn affects her baby’s health.
By working in partnership with NGOs and charities, LIFESAVER can ensure mother and baby (as well as the rest of the family) have access to clean, sterile drinking water thus safeguarding their survival.
If further information regarding LIFESAVER products please email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us on + 44 (0) 1206 580 999.
Photo courtesy of unicef.ca
Much of the information for this blog has been provided by Rehydrate.org and who.int
http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/world_breastfeeding_week_20130730/en/index.html; http://www.rehydrate.org/breastfeed/faq-exclusive-breastfeeding.htm; http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/meetings/2013/world_breastfeeding_week/en/index.html; http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/