The Mysteries of Breast Milk

Over 820,000 children's lives could be saved every year among children under 5 years old if all children aged 0–23 months were optimally breastfed.

Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is protection against gastrointestinal infections which is observed not only in developing but also industrialized countries. Early initiation of breastfeeding, within 1 hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. The risk of mortality due to diarrhoea and other infections can increase in infants who are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.

Breast milk is a vital source of energy and nutrients for children aged 6 to 23 months. Between the ages of 6 and 12 months, it can supply half or more of a child's energy requirements, and from 12 to 24 months, it provides about one-third of their energy needs. Additionally, breast milk serves as a crucial source of energy and nutrients during times of illness and helps lower the mortality rate among malnourished children.

Children and adolescents who were breastfed as infants have a lower likelihood of becoming overweight or obese. They also tend to score higher on intelligence tests and have better school attendance rates. Breastfeeding is linked to higher earnings in adulthood. Enhancing child development and reducing healthcare costs lead to economic benefits for both individual families and the nation as a whole.

Longer durations of breastfeeding also benefit mothers' health and well-being: it lowers the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and aids in spacing pregnancies. Exclusive breastfeeding of infants under 6 months often leads to a lack of menstruation due to its hormonal effects. This natural, though not entirely reliable, birth control method is known as the Lactation Amenorrhea Method.

Mothers and families need to be supported for their children to be optimally breastfed. 

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