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BREASTFEEDING: Bedrock to Raising Healthy Children

Breast milk is the natural diet for human babies in early infancy. It is now recommended by paediatricians all over the world and by the World Health Organization that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6months of life that is, taking breastmilk with no other feeds. Breastfeeding should commence within 30 minutes after birth and subsequently on demand.

Exclusive breastfeeding is a diet of breast milk ONLY with no other liquids or solids—not even water) for the first six months of a child’s life. It is one of the most important interventions to ensure a child’s survival, healthy growth and development.

Babies not exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life have a 14 times higher risk of death, including a 10 times greater risk of death from diarrhoea and 15 times greater risk death from pneumonia compared to infants who are exclusively breastfed.

In particular, good nutrition during the first 1000 days of a child’s life (from conception to second birthday) lays a foundation for life-long healthy growth and development.

Breast milk is free of charge and universally available, even in very resource constrained settings, yet fewer than 40% of infants in the developing world are exclusively breastfed. The reasons for this include the common belief that breastfeeding is not enough to satisfy a growing infant; cultural practices, such as those that require infants to be ‘cleansed’ with specific foods; aggressive marketing of infant formula; a lack of competent breastfeeding counsellors; and heavy workloads for mothers, including inadequate maternity leave provision.


  1. It is available at the right temperature

2. There is no need for preparation.

3. It is always fresh and free from contamination.

4. It contains immunoglobulin A antibodies which is active against a large number of viral and bacterial pathogens. This prevents adherence of micro-organism to the intestinal mucosa.

5. It is a good source of lactoferrin – an Fe-binding protein that inhibits the growth of Escherichia coli in the intestine.

6. Breastmilk enhances mother-infant bonding.

7. It avoids the problem of cow’s milk allergy or intolerance.



  1. When mother is severely ill.

2. Severe maternal infections e.g. HIV, open pulmonary tuberculosis i.e one in which patient is coughing out the tubercule bacilli.

3. Certain maternal medications e.g. anti-thyroid drugs.

In summary, the goal of infant feeding is to ensure that the infant gets adequate calorie, protein and other nutrients to meet the requirements for normal metabolic activities and growth.

World Vision International Article
Neonatology Note by Dr. Ogunlesi and Dr. Ogunfowora.