Breast Feeding or Bottle Feeding

Breast milk - the only genuinely prevalent food for the entire human race.

Breast milk has a purpose as a vital source for nutrition and survival across the whole life of human existence, nourishing the newborn, the infant, and the young child through the most vulnerable years, all the while giving an important source of protection from infectious disease.

Health organizations are campaigning on preserving breast-feeding “where it is the practice and restore it where it is not.” He also bats for developing an environment that enables mothers and babies to breastfeed and for gaining an unreserved support from the community and all its members.

Human milk, according to the United Nations health agency, is more than a simple collection of nutrients. It explains: “The milk of the mother is a natural substance of important biological complexity that not only combat and fight disease, but also stimulates the immune system of the infant.”

Nutritionists claim that when babies are artificially fed, the most immediately apparent result is increased rates of sickness and death. Although the impact is particularly dramatic in poor communities, the immunological benefits of breast milk are no less real among relatively affluent populations.

Moreover, artificial feeding can do no more than approximate the physiological and emotional significance of the act of breastfeeding for babies and mothers alike.

Breast-feeding likewise protects a mother's health by reducing the risk of after-birth bleeding when suckling starts within the first hour, by helping to protect against ovarian cancer, and by reducing the risk of anemia.

The length of time and the way breastfeeding proceeds is also significant, once again for mother and child alike. Thus, for instance, exclusive breastfeeding - that is, giving no other fluid or food than breast milk to a baby - provides more than 98 percent protection from pregnancy during the first six months after birth.

Studies have also shown that six months of exclusive breastfeeding provides measurable protection against eczema (a skin disease causing scaly itching patches) and food intolerance in children whose families have a history of allergic disease.

Every mother should undergo the practice of exclusive breastfeeding and all babies must be fed only with breast milk from being born to the forth to sixth months. Every child must still be fed with breast milk, while being given adequate and appropriate integral foods, until two years of age and upwards.

Human milk has been recognized globally as the only means of infant feeding since ancient times. Early Indians were among those who believed that a child who received breast milk would have longer life. So children were breastfed up to seven or nine years of age.

King Lycurgus of Sparta declared a law in 350 B.C. compelling mothers to breastfeed their babies; so did Egypt and Israel. Julius Caesar condemned Roman mothers who left their infants to the care of wet nurses.

The milk of the mother is natural. In all corners of the globe, babies have been breastfed for thousands of years. Mother’s milk comes in pure form, ready-prepared, and warm. It doesn’t involve sterilization or mixing and most importantly, is free. It is a natural substance. Breast milk have anti-bodies, enzymes, and living cells that help protect infants against many common childhood diseases like malnutrition, allergies diarrhea, and acute respiratory infection (ARI).

Compared to breast milk, infant formula is a dying product. The antibodies and living cells are removed in the manufacturing process and it offers no protection to babies.

Bottle feeding can lead to serious illness and death. Infants who receive no breast milk are 25 times more likely to die in the first six months of life than exclusively breastfed infants.

“The lives of more than one million children could be saved each year if mothers in the developing world breastfed their children,” said the late UNICEF executive director James Grant.

But despite the benefits derived from breastfeeding, the practice keeps on declining in many countries. UNICEF reports that breastfeeding is now an endangered practice - not only in developed countries but in developing countries as well.

If only all mothers breastfed their newborns, the world would save some US$16 billion annually. This is the amount mothers spend to feed babies with infant formula.

A mere decline in breastfeeding would really entail huge expense. Some Asian countries had to spend US$16 million more on breast milk substitute when breastfeeding prevalence in that country dropped by 31 percent.

Annual expenditure for the importation of breast milk substitutes is estimated at US$20 million each in Thailand, the Philippines, Columbia, and Ethiopia; $50 million in Nigeria and $70 million in Brazil.

Several reasons why breastfeeding is on the decline around the world:

  • intensive and aggressive promotion of artificial feeding by the infant formula industry;
  • ill-information among health-care workers;
  • women's lack of self-confidence and lack of information about breastfeeding;
  • emergence of feeding bottles as a status symbol; and
  • giving out of free samples of infant formula to hospitals and maternities.

Behind it all, lies the money motive - the profit for the industry. The manufacturers of infant formula clear millions in profits.

But at what cost? Industry's practices endanger infant health. Deaths of up to a million babies a year are attributed to bottle feeding. Doctors considers bottle feeding a big problem in almost all developing countries. Mothers have to buy the infant formula, which comes in powdered form. This has to be mixed with clean drinking water in the right proportion.

But clean water is not available in most developing countries. To be safe, the water must first be boiled for 20 minutes. The bottles and nipples have to be boiled separately. Fuel for the fire is not cheap. As a result, the water often is not boiled.

Because infant formulas are so expensive, mothers sometimes stretch powdered milk as far as they can. In most cases, some mothers dilute them greatly. Result? The infant gets to drink a thin, white watery solution which is contaminated with all kinds of germs. This causes diarrhea, dehydration and even death.

Alarmed by the declining breastfeeding practice throughout the world, UNICEF and WHO launched the BabyFriendly Hospital Initiative. Both UN agencies targeted at least two hospitals in each of 12 countries.

Hundreds of hospitals in the world are now “baby-friendly.” By UNICEF and WHO standards, baby-friendly hospitals should have written rules for breastfeeding and qualified staff to execute these policies, educate all pregnant women regarding the good qualities of breastfeeding, assist new mothers to start breastfeeding within half an hour of giving birth and teach them the proper way to breastfeed, no other drink or food should be given to the newborn babies other than mother’s milk unless instructed medically.

Baby-friendly hospitals should also implement “rooming in” by letting mothers and babies to be side by side daily for 24 hours, advocate instant breastfeeding, do not supply soothers, pacifiers, or dummies, and assist in starting support groups specifically for breastfeeding and invite other mothers to join them.

Meanwhile, some studies have shown that breast cancer is less likely to occur in mothers who breastfed their babies. This is possibly due to the influences of hormones on the cells lining the milk glands. The cause of breast cancer depends on many factors which are still poorly understood.

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