A research conducted by a team at the Federal University of Pelotas, Brazil and published in the medical journal, Lancet, has shown that Senegalese women breast feed longest in the world, followed by Gambia, Malawi, Guinea Bissau and Ethiopia.
The United Kingdom is at the bottom of the long list, followed by Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Greece and Canada.
In summary, breast feeding is longest in the developing countries and shortest in the developed ones except Saudi Arabia.
Health officials recommend exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of life, after which solid food is introduced but breast feeding continues but no longer exclusive.
Some women breast feed up to twenty four months.
Breast milk contains protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals your baby needs in the first six months of life. It also contains antibodies (disease fighting substances), so the baby is protected from certain childhood diseases for some months of life.
Based on the above, it is pertinent to examine the health benefits of breast feeding to both the baby and the mother.
1. Encourages bonding
Breast feeding encourages bonding between a child and the mother; no picture depicts this more than the way a child looks at the face of the mother while being breast fed.
2. Reduces risk of sudden death
Studies have shown that breast-fed babies have less risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; this is the sudden death of a baby between the age of 1 month and 12 months. Possible causes include bed-sharing with mother/father, over dressing of the baby to sleep, placing baby on a very soft bed, bad sleeping position, reachable little toys, low level in the baby’s body of a chemical called serotonin which regulates certain activities in the body and regurgitation of food.
3. Reduces risk of diarrhoea
Breast-fed babies have about four times less bout of diarrhoea especially in the developing countries of the world than bottle-fed babies. Preparation of baby formula carries high risk of contamination from the container used, to the spoon and the water. Safe water is scarce in developing countries and most of the mothers are illiterate. Moreover, some of the formulas can on their own cause loose stool.
4. Reduces incidence of respiratory infections
As said earlier, breast milk contains a lot of antibodies, vitamins and minerals. The antibodies protect the child against infections from bacteria and viruses, consequently breast-fed babies suffer less from respiratory infections than bottle-fed babies.
5. Reduces risk of ovarian cancer
Studies have shown that women who breast fed at early age and for a long time are less likely to develop ovarian cancer.
6. Reduces risk of breast cancer
Studies have shown that women who breast fed at early age and for a long time are less likely to develop breast cancer.