is natural and perfect food for the baby. WHO
recommends that all infants should be fed
exclusively on breastmilk
until they are six months of age and continued to be
breastfed till two years or beyond along with the
introduction of adequate complementary foods after
six months of age. Breastmilk
provides uniquely appropriate concentrations of
almost all the nutrients for infants at the time
when the growth and development rates are maximal.
Motherís milk comprises of White Blood Cells
(leucocytes), macrophages and epithelial cells;
free fatty acids, phospholipids, sterols,
hydrocarbons and fat soluble vitamins);
galactose, glucose, oligosaccharides, and
SlgA and others,
harmones and growth
factors); non-protein nitrogenous compounds (urea,
creatinine, uric acid,
amino acids including glutamine, nucleic acid,
nucleotides and polyamines), water soluble vitamins,
macronutrient elements, trace elements and various
non nutritional components (anti-microbial factors,
digestive enzymes and growth modulators) that
promote the infantís growth and development.
In comparison to artificial feeding, breastfeeding
is associated with lower morbidity and mortality at
all ages. Recent child survival data have reported
that promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for first
six months and continued breastfeeding for 6 - 11
months is the single most effective intervention
that reduces under-5 child mortality by 13 - 15 per
another study, it is reported that 16 per
cent of neonatal deaths could be averted if all
infants were breastfed from the first day of
childbirth and 22 per cent if breastfeeding was
started within the first hour itself. Breastfeeding
is protective against several infections including
respiratory infections, in addition to many chronic
problems like hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases
and others. Breastfed babies have shown to have a
Intelligence Quotient. It enhances emotional
bond between the child and the mother, provides
warmth, love/ affection and is, thus, much more than
just a food.
clean, free from bacteria and has anti-infective
factors as well as it is readily available to the
baby when she/he wants, needs no preparation and is
at right temperature. In addition to this, it is
economical (particularly for our poorer sectors) and
free from contamination.
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for the
mother too. It reduces anemia.
Obesity is less common among nursing mothers
as it helps the mother to regain her normal figure.
It is protective against breast and ovarian cancers.
Exclusive breastfeeding has contraceptive effect
during first 6 month postpartum.
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed are better
adjusted with their babies as far as rearing and
are concerned. Breastfeeding is beneficial for the
society as it lowers health care cost by reducing
illness among children and thus, reduces the
financial strain on the family.
Fewer sickness in children as a reward of
breastfeeding, allows the mothers to attend to their
work more efficiently and thus, accrue greater cost
benefits to their employers as well. Hence like
motherís love there is no substitute for motherís
1st Ė 7th September is
Celebrated as National
* Associate Professor in Nutrition,
Institute of Home Economics.
* Research Scholar,
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the authors
in this article are their own and do not necessarily
reflect the views of PIB.