Facts for Life N°4: Breastfeeding

BreastfeedingAs the World Breastfeeding Week starts, here is a brilliant list of all the things you need to know about breastfeeding and how truly essential its role is in guaranteeing children’s healthy development.

Child health and breastfeeding

Babies who are breastfed are generally healthier and achieve optimal growth and development compared to those who are fed formula milk.

If the vast majority of babies were exclusively fed breastmilk during the first six months of their life – that is, only breastmilk and no other liquids or solids, not even water – it is estimated that at least 1.2 million children’s lives would be saved every year.

If children continue to be breastfed up to two years and beyond, the health and development of millions of children would be greatly improved.

Infants who are not breastfed are at an increased risk of illness that can compromise their growth and raise the risk of death or disability.

Breastfed babies receive protection from illnesses through the mother’s milk.

Breastfeeding is the natural and recommended way of feeding all infants, even when artificial feeding is affordable, clean water is available, and good hygienic conditions for preparing and feeding infant formula exist.

What every family and community should know about breastfeeding

1. Breastmilk alone is the best food and drink for an infant for the first 6 months of its life. No other food or drink, not even water, is usually needed during this period.

2. Newborn babies should be given to the mother to hold immediately after delivery. They should have skin-to-skin contact with the mother and begin breastfeeding within one hour of being born.

3. Almost every mother can breastfeed successfully. Breastfeeding the baby frequently results in the production of more milk. The baby should breastfeed at least eight times a day, day and night, and on demand.

4. Breastfeeding helps protect babies and young children against dangerous illnesses. It also creates a special bond between mothers and their child.

5. Bottle feeding and giving a baby breastmilk substitutes such as infant formula or animal milk can threaten the baby’s health and survival. If a woman cannot breastfeed her infant, the baby can be fed expressed breastmilk or, if necessary, a quality breastmilk substitute from an ordinary clean cup.

6. If a woman is infected with HIV, there is a risk of her passing the infection on to her infant through breastfeeding. In the first six months, this risk is much greater if the infant is fed both breastmilk and other liquids and foods than if fed breastmilk alone. Therefore, it is recommended that the baby receives only breastmilk for the first six months, unless it is acceptable, feasible, affordable, sustainable and safe to exclusively give breastmilk substitutes (infant formula).

7. A woman with a job away from her home can continue to breastfeed her child. She should breastfeed as often as possible when she is with the infant and express her breastmilk when they are apart so that another caregiver can feed it to the baby in a hygienic and safe way.

8. After 6 months of age, when babies begin to eat foods, breastfeeding should continue for up to two years and beyond because it is an important source of nutrition, energy and protection from illness.

Facts for Life aims to provide families and communities with the information they need to save and improve the lives of children. Parents, grandparents, other caregivers and young people can refer to this practical source of information for answers to their questions related to childbearing and getting children off to the best start in life.

Read all Facts For Life

Illustration made for Po na Bana by Max Lewko


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Justine Mounet

Justine Mounet est consultante en communication à l’UNICEF RDC. Justine a rejoint l'UNICEF en 2013 car elle est croit que le plaidoyer et la participation de chacun sont essentiels pour faire avancer la société, le bien-être et les droits de tous. Justine est spécialisée dans l'engagement des jeunes à travers le web, convaincue que ce sont des acteurs puissants du changement. Son leitmotiv ? "L'arbre qui tombe fait plus de bruit que la forêt qui pousse" : portons la voix de la forêt en germe !

Justine Mounet is a Communication Consultant at UNICEF in DRC. Justine joined UNICEF in 2013 because she believes that advocacy and everyone's participation are essential for advancing society, as well as the well-being and the rights of all. Justine has specialized in digital youth engagement, convinced that they are powerful actors of change. Her leitmotiv? "The tree that falls makes more noise than the forest that grows": let's make the growing forest heard!.

One comment

  • Using pacifiers, dummies or bottles can interfere with establishing breastfeeding in the baby’s first months of life, as the sucking action for these is different from suckling at the breast. The baby may become used to the bottle teat or pacifier and refuse the breast. This may cause less suckling time at the breast, which reduces milk production. Pacifiers and bottle teats may become contaminated, increasing a baby’s risk of illness.

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