I often joke with my friends that my daughter was born hungry.
Immediately after being born, the nine-pound little porker wanted to eat. A kind nurse at the hospital who noticed how exhausting labor was for me thought I could use a break and offered me formula. It was tempting, but I chose to breastfeed instead, which has been one of the best decisions I’ve made as a mother.
Breastfeeding comes with so many benefits. It creates a special bond between a mom and her baby. It helps raise a baby’s IQ level. And”one of my favorite reasons”it’s free.
But the chief reason for my decision was the simple fact that breastfeeding is the healthiest thing a mother can do for her baby. And when it comes to child survival, it’s one of the best (and earliest) lifesaving interventions. UNICEF estimates that if every baby were exclusively breastfed from birth to six months, about 1.3 million children’s lives would be saved each year.
|© UNICEF/ HQ05-2393/Anita Khemka|
|Jayawanti, an Indian mother from the state of Gujarat, nurses her newborn. Breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months can greatly reduce the number of deaths caused by major childhood killers like acute respiratory infection and diarrhea.|
This week is World Breastfeeding Week, an observance started in 1992 by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. This year’s theme”support for mothers”focuses on providing encouragement and assistance to women who choose to nurse.
A mother’s milk contains the right amount of fat, protein, sugar and water required for a baby’s proper growth and development. It also carries antibodies, which protect babies from bacterial and viral infections like pneumonia and respiratory illnesses”top killers of infants in developing countries.
Although breastfeeding yields tremendous advantages, only 38 percent of infants in developing countries are breastfed.
The reasons some moms choose not to breastfeed vary. Some women have erroneously been told that infant formula is healthier than mother’s milk. Others haven’t been taught how to breastfeed and have a hard time nursing (believe me, it’s not as easy as it looks), so they quit.
|© UNICEF/ HQ07-0587/Giacomo Pirozzi|
|LIBERIA: A mural at Redemption Hospital in Monrovia, the capital, depicts a red
© 2013 United States Fund for UNICEF. All rights reserved. 1.800.FOR.KIDS 125 Maiden Lane, New York, NY 10038