Why is breastfeeding important for your baby’s health?

During our study we found that of the 100 infants, 72 exclusively fed on mother’s milk suffered only one episode of illness in four months, while 28 suffered three episodes of illness

Dr Shazia Javaid
Srinagar, Publish Date: Jan 2 2019 1:02AM | Updated Date: Jan 2 2019 1:02AM
Why is breastfeeding important for your baby’s health?Representational pic

The importance of breastfeeding in reducing spells of sickness among infants was an area of interest for me for a long time. I, along with Dr Syed Najmul Ain from post-graduate department of social and preventive medicine at Government Medical College Srinagar, under supervision of head of department Prof S M Salim Khan, conducted a study to find out importance of mother’s milk in preventing illness among newborns. We conducted our study at GB Pant Children Hospital. In one month we collected data about 100 children, between 6 months and 59 months of age. Out of 100 children, 72 had been exclusively breastfed while were not. The World Health Organization defines exclusive breastfeeding as no other food or drink, not even water except mother’s milk for the first six months of life. The parents of these children were asked about number of episodes of any kind of illness their child suffered in previous four months including respiratory, gastrointestinal, eye, ear and skin infections. It was found that the children who were exclusively breastfed on an average had only one episode of illness, while those who had not been exclusively fed on mother’s milk, they had suffered on average three episodes of illness in past four months. Thus, it became clear that a child who feeds on mothers’ milk suffer lesser episodes of illness. There are many other studies which support the fact that exclusive breastfeeding for first six months is indispensable for a child. But still there are many social and cultural barriers in this practice and women at times find it difficult to continue breastfeeding their children. Allah has created an amazing system of feeding newborn child in a manner which is perfect and most effective. There is also mention about importance of mother’s milk for a child in holy Quran. For a newborn, mother’s milk is the natural and complete diet during initial phase of his/her life. It contains all nutrients in adequate numbers, essential for physical and mental development of child. In addition to health benefits, it creates a bond of affection between mother and her child. It has been found to have a long-term effect on psychosocial development of a child. Artificial feeds cannot replace this natural way of feeding because of the unique composition and benefits of mother’s milk. It contains nutrients and appropriate digestive enzymes in an ideal balance and substances that are essential for brain development, cognitive and visual functions. It also helps in gut maturation and builds the immune system of newborn. Even after termination of breastfeeding a child gets a prolonged protection from infections. At times working women face hurdles in feedings their newborn. For example, they may not have an environment supportive at their workplace to breastfeed their child and some women feel that formula milk is best for their children. Efforts must be made at encouraging mothers to breastfeed a child, by educating them, their families and colleagues at work regarding its benefits for both mother and the child. Also a good initiative is to have a separate space for mothers for breastfeeding their newborn at work places. Some departments, such as department of SPM, GMC Srinagar, have provided its female employees a dedicated space which provides a suitable environment for babies to be breastfed and nurtured. That 72 percent of the children, which were part of our study, were exclusively breastfed is an encouraging sign vis-a-vis health of a child. This rate needs to go up. This also needs a strong will on mother’s part, the support of her family and the support at her workplace. It needs a pledge from all of us.

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