DOCTOR CALLING: By Dr Kevin Shields
Readers who are new mums may well have noticed recent publicity for breast feeding and the message that breast is best for new-borns.
Globally, less than 40 per cent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed
The argument for breast feeding has been well and truly won in recent years. Yet lots of nursing mums may still not fully realise the amazing benefits of breast milk for infants. For that reason, I want to take just a few moments to explain why there really is no substitute.
The bottom line is that breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. The World Health Organisation says that if every child was breastfed within an hour of birth, given only breast milk for their first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding up to the age of two years, about 800,000 child lives would be saved every year.
Globally, less than 40 per cent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed. That’s why adequate breastfeeding counselling and support are essential for new mums.
Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby. Giving your baby breast milk only is recommended for around the first six months of your baby’s life. After that, giving your baby breast milk alongside other food will help them continue to grow and develop.
Breast milk is the only natural food designed for your baby and offers protection from infections and diseases. Breastfed babies are much less likely to suffer from health problems such as eczema, tummy upsets, cough and colds. It is also free and always available at the correct temperature!
Breastfeeding doesn’t only benefit your baby. It benefits a mother’s health too as it lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer, naturally uses up to 500 calories a day, saves money and can help build a strong bond between you and your baby.
Support and guidance is available from GPs, midwives, health visitors, trained volunteer mums and children’s centres. For more information call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.