A health promoter in Lucanamarca, Peru, advising a breastfeeding mother. Photo: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger.
Breast milk offers the best possible nutrition for babies, and benefits maternal health as well!
Discover the benefits of breastfeeding.
What is colustrum?
Colostrum is produced in the first days after birth. This substance is rich in proteins, minerals, vitamin A and antibodies.
After the initial days of breastfeeding, colostrum is replaced by transitional milk and then mature milk, which is richer in fats, carbohydrates and vitamins.
Worldwide, approximately 7.6 million babies each year are not breastfed. (Source: UNICEF)
What are the main benefits of breastfeeding for the baby? (Choose at least three options) *
Please select 3 correct answers
All babies benefit from breastfeeding because breast milk contains all the nutrients necessary for the baby to thrive.
Babies who are breastfed experience less illness than those who are fed breast milk substitutes or other foods. In addition, breastfeeding improves vision, protects against ear infections and reduces the risk of developing allergies.
Although breast milk protects babies and mothers from life-threatening diseases and contributes to higher IQ and better academic results, about 21% of babies in high-income countries have never been breastfed. In low- and middle-income countries this rate is 4%. (Source: UNICEF)
On average, how often do babies feed in the first months of life?
According to the World Health Organization, infants should be breastfed "on demand” without following a rigid schedule. On average, for the first few months, babies breastfeed 8-14 times a day, but this varies significantly.
For how long is exclusive breastfeeding recommended?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months as a worldwide public health practice. Until a baby reaches six months of age, breast milk is sufficient to satisfy all their nutritional needs. During this period nothing else is needed, not even water. After six months it is necessary to complement breast milk with the baby's first solid foods.
Worldwide, just over 40% of babies under 6 months are exclusively breastfed. (Source: UNICEF)
What is weaning?
The term weaning (or properly stated, the beginning of complementary nutrition) means the transition from an exclusive milk diet to a semi-solid and then solid diet. This transition is characterized by the progressive introduction of the so-called "complementary foods", meaning foods other than milk.
This transition must take place when breastfeeding alone is no longer sufficient to meet the baby's nutritional requirements, notably for energy, protein, iron, zinc and vitamins.
What are the main benefits of breastfeeding for mothers? (Choose at least three options)
Please select 3 correct answers
Breastfeeding immediately after childbirth prevents bleeding and helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size.
Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of developing breast and uterine cancer before menopause and suffering from osteoporosis in old age. Breastfeeding also facilitates the loss of extra weight gained during pregnancy.
Worldwide, only 40% of women with a newborn have access to basic maternity benefits in the workplace. (Source UNICEF)
How long should each feeding last?
There are no rules on how long to feed: most babies are able to regulate how much milk they ingest. Since the last portion of the milk is the most nutritious, it is important that the baby is not disrupted during feeding.
In Canada the ever-breastfed rate is 89%. (Source: UNICEF)
How soon after birth should the baby feed?
Breastfeeding the baby within the first hour after birth offers protection from illness and infection. Newborns are at higher risk for diarrhea and other illnesses when they are not breastfed or only partially breastfed. (Source: UNICEF)
Three out of five babies are not breastfed in the first hour of life, especially in low- and middle-income countries. (Source: UNICEF)
Can COVID-19 be transmitted through breastfeeding?
Transmission of the active COVID-19 virus through breastfeeding or breast milk has not been detected to date. There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding, even in particularly affected communities.
Even if a mother is affected by the virus, she should continue breastfeeding while taking precautions like frequent handwashing with soap and water and wearing personal protective equipment.
What is the critical development period for a child?
A child’s first thousand days - roughly between conception and the child’s second birthday - are critical for healthy growth, optimal health, and neurological development. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Breast milk should subsequently be supplemented (but not replaced) with solid foods until the baby is two years old.
Children who are not provided with adequate nutrition up before the age of two can suffer from stunting, with irreversible effects. There is no cure for this. Children who suffer from this form of malnutrition are also more vulnerable to infections, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Worldwide, 165 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition. (Source: UNICEF)
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