Breast Feeding

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Breastfeeding[✎ edit | edit source]

Woman breastfeeding

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breast milk as the only food or drink offered to infants during the first 6 months of life [1]. To promote breastfeeding, mothers should be empowered to initiate skin-to-skin contact with their infant immediately after birth for at least one hour [2]. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding for 2 years or more, with the appropriate introduction of solid foods [3].

The first milk produced by the mother is known as colostrum. This thick creamy milk is rich in protein and antibodies, which help the baby ward of infection [4]. Colostrum is highly nutritious and is the perfect first food for the infant [4].

Exclusive breastfeeding promotes optimal growth and development. In developing countries, “the most important benefit of breastfeeding is the infant’s immediate survival [5]”. The chance of survival in the early months is at least six times greater among children who are breastfed compared to those who are not [6]. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of death from acute respiratory infection and diarrhea, as well as other infectious diseases [5].

Each mother’s milk is unique and provides the right amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals for her infant at each stage of development [1]. In addition to its nutritional components, breast milk also contains immune factors that help protect the infant from infection and disease [1]. Breastfeeding supports the development of the infant’s immune systems and helps decrease the risk infection and illness during childhood, as well as the risk of chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes later in life [3].

Vitamin D[✎ edit | edit source]

Vitamin D is necessary for proper bone development. Vitamin D deficiency may occur among breastfed infants who do not receive much exposure to sunlight [7]. In developed countries, mothers are recommended to give breastfeed infants Vitamin D drops to help prevent deficiency. Breast milk substitutes are fortified therefore supplementation is not necessary in infants who are not breastfed.

Importance of Breastfeeding[✎ edit | edit source]

There are many reasons why a mother should breastfeed. Breastfeeding is associated with important short and long-term health outcomes for both mother and child. Breastfed infants are at lower risk of ear infections, respiratory illnesses, allergies, diarrhea and sudden infant death syndrome [4]. Long term, breastfed children are at lower risk of childhood leukemia, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and have higher IQ scores [4][8].

For the mother, breastfeeding helps reduce the risk of post-partum haemorrhage, postpartum depression, and delays the return to fertility. Long term mothers who breastfeed are at decreased risk of osteoporosis, ovarian and breast cancer [4]. Both mother and child benefit from early skin-to-skin contact as this helps to establish a bond that promotes healthy social emotional development [2].

Complementary Feeding[✎ edit | edit source]

At 6 months, the child’s nutritional needs begin to change and developmentally they are ready to begin eating small amounts of family foods. Breast milk continues to be the child’s main source of nourishment well beyond the first year of life [7]. At 6-8 months, the child should be offered small meals of complementary foods 2-3 times per day. The first foods introduced should be smooth in texture to minimize the risk of choking. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to increase the quantity of food, as the child gets older, while maintaining frequent breastfeeding [7]. By 9 months, meals of complementary foods should be offered 3-4 times per day with nutritious snacks offered between meals 1-2 per day [7].

Parents and caregivers should offer a variety of foods to ensure the child’s nutrient needs are met [7]. Early on, iron rich foods are particularly important because by 6 months the infant’s iron stores have been depleted [9]. Therefore, meat, poultry, fish or eggs should be eaten daily, or as often as possible [7].

Continue to modify the texture, progressing from smooth to a slightly more lumpy texture, and finally to small pieces of food when the child is developmentally ready [9]. As the child continues to grow, offer a variety of foods from each food group. Parents and caregivers should be encouraged to pay attention to their child’s hunger and satiety cues, sit with their child while eating, and make meal times pleasant.

Links[✎ edit | edit source]

References[✎ edit | edit source]

  1. a b c Public Health Agency of Canada. Breastfeeding & Infant Nutrition [online]. [cit. 2012-29-10]. <>.
  2. a b The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic & Institute. The Importance of Skin to Skin Contact [online]. [cit. 2012-11-07]. <>.
  3. a b UNICEF. Infant and Young Child Feeding [online]. [cit. 2011-11-07]. <>.
  4. a b c d e GOV Department of Health and Wellness. Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness [online]. [cit. 2012-11-07]. <>.
  5. a b Pan American Health Organisation. Effect of breastfeeding on infant mortality [online]. [cit. 2012-11-07]. <>.
  6. UNICEF. Introduction to Interpreting Area Graphs for Infant and Young Child Feeding [online]. [cit. 2012-11-07]. <>.
  7. a b c d e f Pan American Health Organisation. Guiding principles for complementary feeding of the breastfed child [online]. [cit. 2012-11-07]. <>.
  8. Jedrychowski W, Perera F, Jankowski J, Butscher M, Mroz E, Flak E, Kaim I, Lisowska-Miszczyk I, Skarupa A, Sowa A. Effect of exclusive breastfeeding on the development of children's cognitive function in the Krakow prospective birth cohort study. Eur J Pediatr. 2012 Jan;171(1):151-8. Epub 2011 Jun 10
  9. a b GOV Department of Health and Wellness. Province of Nova Scotia [online]. [cit. 2012-11-07]. <>.