The week long enlightenment on breastfeeding ends today.

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an annual celebration which is held every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries.
World Breastfeeding Week was first celebrated in 1992 by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and is now observed in over 120 countries by UNICEF, WHO and their partners including individuals, organizations, and governments.

WABA itself have been formed on 14 February 1991 with the goal to re-establish a global breastfeeding culture and provide support for breastfeeding everywhere.
WHO and UNICEF, WBW came up with the goal to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life which yields many health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and fostering growth and development for the first time in 1991.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children. Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and then supplemented breastfeeding for at least one year and up to two years or more.

In line with this theme, WHO and UNICEF are calling on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.
Analysis indicates that increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding could save the lives of 820,000 children every year, generating US $302 billion in additional income.

This is why UNICEF and WHO, in line with the policy actions advocated by the UNICEF-WHO-led Global Breastfeeding Collective, are calling on governments to:

INVEST to make skilled breastfeeding counselling available to every woman. Ensuring availability of skilled breastfeeding counselling to every woman will require increased financing for breastfeeding programmes and improved monitoring and implementation of policies, programmes and services.

TRAIN health care workers, including midwives and nurses, to deliver skilled breastfeeding counselling to mothers and families.

PARTNER and collaborate with civil society and health professional associations, building strong collaborative systems for provision of appropriate counselling.

ENSURE that counselling is made available as part of routine health and nutrition services that are easily accessible.

PROTECT health care workers from the influence of the baby food industry.

Studies indicate that breastfeeding helps improve mothers’ health, as well as their children’s. A woman grows both physically and emotionally from the relationship she forms with her baby. Just as a woman’s breast milk is designed specifically to nourish the body of an infant, the production and delivery of this milk aids her own health.

  1. Breast milk is always fresh, perfectly clean, just the right temperature, and is the healthy choice at the least cost.
  2. Breastfeeding is easy, even if it sometimes requires an initial period of learning and adapting for mother and baby.
  3. Breastfeeding requires no preparation, sterilization, etc. of bottles and formula (often while baby cries…)
  4. Breastfeeding is a cost effective way of feeding an infant, providing the best nourishment for a child at a small nutrient cost to the mother.
  5. Breastfeeding is possible throughout pregnancy, but generally milk production will be reduced at some point.
  6. Frequent and exclusive breastfeeding can delay the return of fertility through lactational amenorrhea, though breastfeeding is an imperfect means of birth control.
    Breast Milk Expression
    If the mother is away, an alternative caregiver may be able to feed the baby with expressed breast milk. The various breast pumps available for sale and rent help working mothers to feed their babies breast milk for as long as they want. To be successful, the mother must produce and store enough milk to feed the child for the time she is away, and the feeding caregiver must be comfortable in handling breast milk.
    For the mother
    *Bonding: During breastfeeding beneficial hormones are released into the mother’s body and the maternal bond can be strengthened.A woman’s ability to produce all of the nutrients that her child needs can provide her with a sense of confidence. Hormones released during breastfeeding help to strengthen the maternal bond.Researchers have pointed out that the bond of a nursing mother and child is stronger than any other human contact. Holding the child to her breast provides most mothers with a more powerful psychological experience than carrying the fetus inside her uterus.
    *Weight Loss: Mothers who breastfeed are more likely to return to their prepregnancy weight than mothers who formula feed. Breastfeeding reduces the risk for long-term obesity.
    Breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk of obesity and hypertension.As the fat accumulated during pregnancy is used to produce milk, extended breastfeeding—at least 6 months—can help mothers lose weight. However, weight loss is highly variable among lactating women; monitoring the diet and increasing the amount/intensity of exercise are more reliable ways of losing weight.Mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk. In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation.
    *Helps birth spacing: In developing countries, exclusive breastfeeding reduces total potential fertility as much as all other modern contraceptive methods combined. By spacing births, breastfeeding allows the mother to recuperate before she conceives again.
    Among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, risk of breast cancer decrease with increasing duration of lifetime lactation experience although the effect was consistently stronger for premenopausal women.After controlling for age at first full term pregnancy and other potentially compounding factors, parity and duration of breast feeding also had a strong influence on the risk of breast cancer.
    A protective effect against uterine cancer was found for women who breastfeed. This protection increases with breastfeeding duration.
    Breastfeeding should be added to the list of factors that decrease ovulatory age and thereby decrease the risk of ovarian cancer.

Lactation provides a hypoestrogenic effect with less stimulation of the endometrial lining. This event may offer a protective effect from endometrial cancer.
Breastfeeding decreases the risk for and incidence of thyroid cancer

Heart disease
In 2009, researchers found that women who nursed for at least 24 months over the course of their reproductive lifespan had a 23 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. While the reason is still unknown, researchers theorize that it could be due to the beneficial effects that nursing has on the body’s metabolism of sugar and fats. Nursing may also decrease visceral fat—the dangerous kind that collects around the abdominal organs—and promote healthier fat storage on the hips and thighs. One thing nursing doesn’t appear to do: trigger weight loss. While it takes plenty of calories to produce breast milk, nursing moms usually find that their appetites increase, causing them to eat more.
2009 study indicated that lactation for at least 24 months is associated with a 23% lower risk of coronary heart disease.
Rheumatoid arthritis
A number of studies have linked breastfeeding to protection against rheumatoid arthritis. One from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that nursing for a total of two years decreased the risk by 50 percent, while nursing for 12 to 23 months lowered risk by 20 percent. Nursing seems to permanently alter levels of female sex hormones, like estrogen and certain androgens, thought to play a role in this debilitating condition.

The latest study adds to evidence that nursing protects against type 2 diabetes. That’s likely because lactation makes cells more sensitive to the hormone insulin. (In fact, diabetic mothers who breast-feed usually require less insulin when they nurse.) It could also be due to nursing’s effect on where fat is stored: on the hips and thighs rather than on the belly. Excess abdominal fat, often acquired during pregnancy, is a key risk factor in adult diabetes.
Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum is decreased.
A woman suffering from Gestational Diabetes has less risk of developing type-2 Diabetes later on if she breastfeeds after that pregnancy.
*Emotional Health: Many mothers also get emotional benefits from breastfeeding because of the closeness of this interaction with the baby and from the satisfaction of helping to nourish their babies.At one month postpartum, women who breastfed their infants had scores indicating less anxiety and more mutuality than the women bottle feeding their infants.
Some research suggest that mothers who breastfeed their babies have fewer episodes of post-delivery depression.0Breastfeeding comforts a toddler when they are tired, upset, sick or hurt. Extended breastfeeding can make mothering a toddler easier during those times (LLL).
Helps mother get needed rest by requiring that she sit or lie down with baby every few hours to feed.
Breastfeeding women report psychological benefits such as increased self-confidence and a stronger sense of connection with their babies.
Many societies and cultures also encourage mothers to breastfeed, which can offer support to a new mother.

Exclusive breastfeeding is the best for both the mother and infant.

Published by Ebun-Olorun Olubunmi

Ebun-Olorun Olubunmi is a nurse by profession who is passionate about delivering sustainable health services using direct and virtual means

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