The World Breastfeeding Week, which is held annually, has already started on Aug. 1 and will run until Aug. 7 for this year. For 2015, the theme is "Breastfeeding and Work: Let's Make It Work!" The said theme is based on the decision of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to rekindle the program's 1993 theme, which focuses on empowering women to breastfeed and work at the same time.

The organization believes that women should claim their rights to breastfeed, regardless of the nature of their work, or whether they go to a corporate office or remain as a stay-at-home mom. This is because breastfeeding have numerous benefits, not only for babies, but for mothers as well.

Breast milk is superior to all other food items that infants may take in, even superseding infant milk formulas. No other food item may replace the nutritional value that breast milk contains. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), exclusively feeding infants with breast milk is highly advised until the sixth month of life. Breastfeeding may still be continued until two years of age, provided that adequate complementary food is added to the diet.

The benefits of breastfeeding to babies, according to the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Unicef and American Academy of Pediatrics include:

  • Consumption of a nutritionally balanced meal
  • Protection against common childhood illnesses and infections such as diarrhea, pneumonia and influenza

  • Optimum survival rate, specifically during the infant's first year of life

  • Decreased risk of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

  • Decreased risk of developing allergies such as asthma and lactose intolerance

  • Decreased risk of developing diabetes type 1

  • Decreased risk of developing obesity

  • Enhanced bonding with mother for direct breastfeeding, brought about by skin-to-skin contact.

Breastfeeding practices may not only provide benefits to babies alone, as mothers may also be helped. The benefits of breastfeeding for mothers include:

  • Decreased postpartum blood loss

  • More improved post-delivery healing

  • Better weight loss results after giving birth

  • Enhanced emotional health as brought about by bonding with the infant

  • Decreased risk of developing postpartum depression

  • Decreased risk of developing particular diseases such as breast cancer, cardiovascular diseases and rheumatoid arthritis

  • Enhanced protection from hip fractures and ovarian cancer later in life

Breastfeeding does not only provide health benefits to both the mother and child. The society and environment may also draw advantages from mothers practicing prolonged breastfeeding. Families are generally not sickly hence, the workforce and health sector are not burdened by them frequently. Feeding infants with breast milk may also save the industrial sectors some energy and time as it does not require manufacturing prerequisites to be able to ensue successfully. Air pollution may also be lowered due to the decreased wastes generated from milk formula factories. Lastly, breast milk is always at the right temperature, ready to feed and involves less chances for contamination as it is directly being fed to infants.

Photo: Stefan Malmesjö | Flickr

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