Why mothers should breastfeed their babies
A mother’s breast milk is the most nutritious food for babies under six months old, providing antibodies that build the immune system and protect against viruses and other pathogens — a benefit that baby formulas have yet to replicate. By implementing universal breastfeeding, 800,000 child deaths a year would be averted. Considering that studies show the first 1,000 days of a child’s life determine the child’s future prospects to perform well in school and lifelong health, the first six months can make a fundamental difference. Breastfeeding lowers a baby’s risk of having asthma and allergies. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, without anything else, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. Breastfeeding also has physiological and relational benefits, since a mother and child are more strongly bonded in the process.
Contrary to the belief that women need access to formula because of malnutrition and poverty, according to UNICEF, virtually every mother can breastfeed if given appropriate support. Even if a mother is moderately malnourished, she will continue to make high quality milk, better than formula. Financially impoverished families needn’t spend their hard-earned pennies on an inferior product that ends up creating unnecessary economic hardship, potential health problems, and perpetuates wives’ tales that seed generations of cultural misinformation. Any promotion of baby formula as a choice over breast milk undermines efforts to lift the poor out of poverty.
In addition, access to safe drinking water is critically limited or nonexistent in many developing countries. Because infant formula needs to be mixed with water, it increases exposure to water-borne diseases. In fact, diarrhea from dirty water is a leading cause of death, accounting for approximately 8 percent of deaths among children under five. That’s 1,300 young children each day.