Breast milk is the most natural and perfect food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help to protect against many common childhood illnesses. Colostrum is rich in nutrients, contains more protein than later milk, helps to prevent allergies and intolerance to other foods, and has factors that can prevent infection; hence it should be fed to newborns. Breast milk meets the energy and nutrient requirement for the first six months of life and continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year.
Breastfeeding also creates a bond between mother and child. It helps in retraction of the uterus, delays menstruation and lowers risk of breast cancer for the mother. Breast-fed infants have better cognitive development in childhood and lower risk of autoimmune diseases, obesity and diabetes later in life. Breast milk provides good quality proteins, fat, vitamins and minerals. Fats provide 50% of the total energy and is more efficiently used by an infant. This fat is needed for the development of gray matter and myelination. The high content of DHA in breast milk is associated with better brain development in the child. There is more whey protein than casein in breast milk, making it easier to digest. The anti-infective proteins in breast milk include lactoferrin and lysozyme as well as antibodies. Breast milk has immunoglobulins which protect against infections. The bifidus factor promotes natural gut flora.
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