5 Ways Breastfeeding Helps Moms and Babies Alike

In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, we take a look at why baby and parent nutrition plays such an important role in tackling hunger

At a time when at least one in three children under the age of 5 is affected by malnutrition, breastfeeding remains an important way to help babies and young children meet their nutritional needs.

In response to a global hunger crisis in a year of unprecedented hardship, the World Food Program is supporting breastfeeding around the world by providing pregnant and breastfeeding women with specific nutritious foods to prevent and treat malnutrition.

WFP provides nutrition education for mothers and their communities, which is literally a lifeline – breastfeeding helps build immunity to disease and serves children well beyond their earliest days.

1) It is critical to children’s health and survival

A child is more likely to survive if exclusively breastfed, especially in the critical first six months.

In food-insecure environments, mortality among young children is highest. For example, in the 2011 famine in Somalia, more than half of the estimated preventable deaths occurred in children under the age of five.

Colostrum – the first milk produced by the mammary glands – is considered a child’s first vaccine and provides essential protection against life-threatening diseases.

2) The benefits of breastfeeding can last a lifetime

How a child is nourished during pregnancy through their second birthday is critical to growth and a healthy adult life. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding until at least two years of age.

Breastfed babies are less likely to be overweight or obese than adolescents and children. You will perform better in school – not least because of the better attendance. Breastfeeding is an investment in “human capital”.

The accumulation of human capital – the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge and experience – is increasingly recognized as a key driver of sustainable and inclusive long-term economic growth. Inadequate breastfeeding costs the global economy nearly $1 billion a day in lost productivity and healthcare costs.

3) It not only helps babies but also mothers

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of cancer and postnatal depression in women. It naturally produces calming hormones that help relieve stress for moms and can also help calm babies. Balki is a mother of six children in Niger and her family has struggled through several droughts.

WFP gave her pap filled with the vitamins and minerals she needed while breastfeeding and gave her guidance on how to improve her diet. “I’ve noticed a change in my body and the good health of my children,” she said. “I also noticed that the children I was pregnant with before this project were much less healthy and strong than those born afterwards.”

She added: “Previously we didn’t know the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, but WFP’s support has educated us on breastfeeding and we benefit greatly from it; the kids don’t get sick and they’re in much better shape.”

4) When babies are healthy, everyone benefits

Promoting breastfeeding is one of the wisest investments a country can make to build its future prosperity. Every $1 invested in promoting and protecting breastfeeding generates up to $35 in economic returns. Increasing breastfeeding rates is important to making progress towards global nutritional goals – against stunting, anemia in women of childbearing age, low birth weight, childhood obesity and wasting.

5) Breastfeeding can help families build resilience

Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the baby needs in the first 6 months of life. It continues to provide up to half or more of the energy and other high-quality nutrients a child needs between 6 and 12 months, and up to a third between 12 and 24 months.

Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding is a life-saving measure for babies everywhere, especially in times of crisis.

In emergency situations, mothers face increased challenges in breastfeeding their babies and need special attention and practical support. In almost all difficult situations, breastfeeding should be the preferred form of infant feeding.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.