Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.
Breastfeeding should begin within one hour of birth and should be “on demand”, as often as the child wants day and night.
Benefits of Breast milk
- Breast milk is safe. It provides all the energy and essential nutrients from birth up to 6 months of life.
- The first few drops of breast milk called colostrum contains antibodies that protect babies against infectious and chronic diseases, such as diarrhea or pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide.
- it is easy to digest
- it is readily available and affordable
- It strengthens the bond between mother and child.
- For long-term benefits, adolescents and adults who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. They are less likely to have type II diabetes and they perform better in intelligence tests.
Benefits for Mothers
- Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a natural, though not fail-safe method of birth control (98% protection in the first six months after birth).
- It reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression.
How long should a mother breastfeed?
The Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. WHO recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Solid foods need to be introduced at around 6 months of age not to replace breastfeeding but to supplement breast milk.