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Exclusive Breastfeeding: Important Facts & BenefitsLearn key facts on the importance and benefits of exclusive breastfeeding and the impact of optimal breastfeeding on a child’s nutrition.
Breastfeeding – the Facts
• Every infant and child has the right to good nutrition according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
• Undernutrition is associated with 35% of the disease burden in children under five.
• Globally 30% (or 186 million) of children under five are estimated to be stunted and 18% (or 115 million) have low weight-for-height, mostly as a consequence of poor feeding and repeated infections.
• On average 35% of infants 0-6 months old are exclusively breastfed. In the Philippines the figure is 34%.
• Optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices can save the lives of 1.5 million children under five each year.
Why is exclusive breastfeeding so important?
The first two years of a child’s life are particularly important, as optimal nutrition during this period will lead to reduced morbidity and mortality, due to reduced risk of chronic diseases and to overall better development. In fact, optimal breastfeeding and complimentary feeding practices are so critical they can save the lives of 1.5 million children under five each year. WHO and UNICEF recommendations for optimal infant and young child feeding are:
• Early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and a long breastfeed (not removing the baby after a few minutes)
• Exclusive breastfeeding (no water or other liquids) for the first six months of life
• The introduction of adequate and safe complementary foods at six months together with continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond.
What are the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding?
Exclusive breastfeeding for six months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is the protection against gastro-intestinal infections, pneumonia and neonatal sepsis which is observed not only in developing but in industrialized countries. The risk of mortality due to diarrhea and other infections increases in infants who are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.
Breast milk is also an important source of energy and nutrients in children 6-23 months of age. It can provide one half or more of a child’s energy needs between 6 and 12 months of age, and one third of the energy needs between 12 and 24 months. Breast milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
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