Benefits of Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding Module – HUG 2121

This essay will explore various factors within breastfeeding, it will focus on the long and short term health benefits of breastfeeding, for both the mother and baby it will also discuss the reasons why women chose not to breastfeed, especially within the western society. Contributory factors such as social, psychological, cultural and political all contribute to the reasons women chose to breastfeed or not. WHO (2011), suggests that breast milk provides the necessary nutrients for up to the second half of the infants first year , and it also promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protection from infections and chronic illness. Breastfeeding has been also promoted by various studies and organisations and is said to be the healthiest and most effective way of feeding your baby, it not only increases bonding with the baby, but it also helps the mother to keep track of their babies health. Dykes (2002:98) The world health organisation(WHO) recommends that “mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child's first six months in order to achieve optimal growth, development and health”. There are many advantages associated with breastfeeding your baby, such as low risk of child obesity, which in turn usually leads to type 2 diabetes in later life and a low risk of acquiring other health problems such as eczema. Miller (1991:76). Breast milk also contains valuable antibodies from the mother that may help the baby resist infections, so this means the baby is not at a high risk of acquiring disease.

There are various factors that influence the initiation and maintenance of breastfeeding, Earle (2002) recognises some of these factors, as the way the mother identifies herself, the fathers understanding on infant feeding, the personal factors involved and the sexualisation of breasts.

The politics of breastfeeding is explained in detail by, Counihan (2008:467) stating that political obstacles include the “marketing practices of instant formula manufacturers”, and how such factors appear to have a positive impact on the choice women make in order to breastfeed or not. The article goes on to reflect breastfeeding rates in the UK; and the health benefits of breastfeeding for the mother as well as the infant.

Despite attempts to reiterate to general public that ‘breast is best’, breastfeeding is still very much low in the western society (UNICEF, 2005). Protheroe et al (2003) discuss the issues behind this and explain the evidence that shows the health benefits of breastfeeding. Protheroe et al, (2003) also suggest that breastfeeding allows babies to have a better start in life than those who are formula fed. Due to both the short and long term health benefits associated with breastfeeding, Protheroe et al (2003) continues to argue that the main development of the infant is dependent on the nutrients breast milk provide. Breastmilk does not contain any extra ingredients that may cause the baby to have problems digesting it, so it is less strenuous for the baby. According to Allen and Hector (2005:42), they suggest that breastmilk is “uniquely engineered” for babies and that, it is biologically and naturally the correct way to feed babies. They also, argue that unlike formula milk breastfeeding has a vast number of health benefits for both mother and baby. Alexander et al. (2009:158) supports this claim and explains that breastfeeding provides a vast number of health benefits, “including protection against many acute and chronic diseases as well as advantages for general health, growth and development. ” UNICEF suggest that babies who are fed using breast milk substitutes have an increased risk of acquiring infections and diseases such as gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, respiratory or chest infections, ear infections, and even childhood leukaemia and possibly sudden infant death syndrome, or cot death. Allen and Hector (2005:44) support...
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