World Breastfeeding Week Promotes Nursing

Breastfeeding can offer benefits for both babies and mothers

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Breastfeeding can offer a number of benefits to mother and child, such as a reduced risk of diabetes and asthma. The World Health Organization (WHO) tries to promote those benefits each year with World Breastfeeding Week.

The first week in August marks the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week. The week aims to encourage breastfeeding and promote babies' health around the globe.

It dates back to 1990, when WHO teamed up with UNICEF and other organizations to support breastfeeding worldwide.

"Talk to a pediatrician about how long to breastfeed your baby."

Breastfeeding benefits babies' health in a number of ways, but it also benefits mothers' health, WHO reported.

Raising awareness about these benefits can help women make an informed choice about whether to breastfeed their children. But not all mothers will choose to breastfeed, and not all women can exclusively breastfeed without using some formula.

However, most women — including women with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) — who are not taking certain medicines can breastfeed if they choose to for as long as they choose to.

One of the biggest benefits of breastfeeding is a reduced risk of disease, noted the Office on Women's Health (OWH).

Breastfed babies have lower rates of asthma, obesity, ear infections, eczema, respiratory infections and Type 2 diabetes than babies who are exclusively formula-fed, according to the OWH.

In addition, breast milk contains antibodies — disease-killing cells from a mother's immune system — that can help babies fight off infections.

Mothers who breastfeed have a lowered risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer, the OWH reported. Breastfeeding also helps a woman's body heal after giving birth, helping return to its normal shape and size.

Mothers should be aware, however, of risks associated with only breastfeeding.

Exclusively breastfed babies are at a higher risk for vitamin K deficiency bleeding, but receiving a vitamin K shot at birth will nearly remove this risk. Two other potential deficiencies in breastfed babies include vitamin D and iron.

However, breastfed babies can receive vitamin D or iron supplements with a doctor's approval. Women taking prenatal vitamins may already be providing sufficient iron to their children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants be exclusively breastfed until 6 months old and then receive breast milk in addition to other foods until they are at least 1 year old.

Review Date: 
August 8, 2014
Last Updated:
August 11, 2014