Breast milk is the healthiest food possible for a baby and promoting its benefits and supporting mothers to do it correctly is extremely important for a healthier future for children. Yesterday was the beginning of the World Breastfeeding Week, that aims to help mothers all around the world by raising awareness about its value to the children’s development and by supporting the implementation of newer and stronger laws that could facilitate mothers to breastfeed their children for longer.
The official recommendation from the WHO is that babies be fed with breast milk exclusively for the first six months, as it contains the ideal nutrients for the child. Furthermore, breastfeeding should begin as soon as within the first hour after birth, as the first breast milk, called colostrum, is packed with a wide range of antibodies and nutrients that are extremely valuable to the new born.
After the first six months, certain types of solid food can be introduced, as long as they are mashed, but it is important that the child also receive breast milk at this point. Alternating the solid food with breastfeeding would be the best version, but mothers don’t always have that option, because it happens all too often that they choose to go back to work, so that they can do their part in supporting the family and this limits the breastfeeding time drastically.
This is precisely the aim of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week; introducing proper conditions for women to breastfeed their children while they work would greatly increase the breastfeeding rate worldwide and this could have a positive influence on the health of the new generation, because breastfeeding has both short and long term beneficial effects on the child and on the mother as well.
Breast milk enables newborns to steer clear of various diseases such as diarrhea and pneumonia, and also get the best possible nutritional start in life, but it seems that it also provides the child with long term protection from obesity and greatly reduces the odds of developing diseases such as type II diabetes and asthma. As for the beneficial effects on the mother, it seems that breastfeeding actually leads to a proper hormonal balance, which in turn reduces the chances of developing postpartum depression. It also helps reduce the risk of developing type II diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.
Taking these benefits into consideration, it becomes apparent that the entire perception that people have on breastfeeding needs to change. It should be viewed as part of the wonderful process of having a child and therefore mothers should be supported to perform it correctly. This implies information centers, so that mothers can become comfortable with breastfeeding and learn how to do it properly.
Also, people should start talking about it, because it is still a tabu subject, despite being a natural part of life. History has demonstrated that discussing a certain issue is the absolute best course of action that could be taken in resolving the matter. People need to learn more about breastfeeding so that they stop considering it disgusting and so that mothers are not forced to hide in order to feed their children anymore.
Whether or not breastfeeding should be performed in any given type of setting remains greatly debatable at this point, but making it easier for mothers to feed their children properly clearly remains a priority. And this can only be achieved by introducing private areas in the workplace, where mothers can breastfeed while they are at work, and also creche-like facilities for companies, where mothers can leave their children for the most part of the day, but where they can get to fast in case they are needed.
Furthermore, it is crucial that stronger laws be developed, so that they could enable women to get more appropriate maternity leaves. The first six months of leave should be offered with pay, and afterwords, a minimum requirement is that a part-time version of the job be offered to the mother, so that she could take care of her child properly.
It remains to be seen what can be resolved in the near future on the matter of breastfeeding, but it remains absolutely crucial to get people to talk about it and to work towards considering it a normal thing, and moreover an irreplaceable beneficial practice for the child.
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