Macclesfield Express - - MACCLESFIELD PEOPLE -

DR Les­ley Bayliss, clin­i­cal cham­pion for chil­dren at NHS East­ern Cheshire CCG

THERE’S an old say­ing that breast is best for ba­bies. And as it’s World Breastfeeding Week from Tues­day Au­gust 1 to Mon­day Au­gust 7, I thought I’d use this week’s col­umn to take a look at the facts.

There’s much ev­i­dence that the ben­e­fits of breastfeeding ex­tend well be­yond ba­sic nu­tri­tion. As well as con­tain­ing all the vi­ta­mins and nu­tri­ents your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with dis­ease-fight­ing sub­stances that pro­tect baby from ill­ness.

Feed­ing baby on noth­ing but breast milk for the first six months is ideal – but any amount is ben­e­fi­cial.

Research has shown that stom­ach viruses, lower res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness, ear in­fec­tions and menin­gi­tis oc­cur less of­ten in breast­fed ba­bies and are less se­vere when they hap­pen. The main im­mune fac­tor is a sub­stance called se­cre­tory im­munoglobin that’s pro­duced in large amounts in colostrum, the first milk your body pro­duces for your baby. It guards against in­vad­ing germs by form­ing a pro­tec­tive layer on mu­cous mem­branes in your baby’s in­testines, nose and throat.

Breast milk is tai­lored to your body. It re­sponds to pathogens (viruses and bac­te­ria) in your body and makes im­munoglobin that’s spe­cific to those pathogens, cre­at­ing pro­tec­tion for your baby based on what­ever you’re ex­posed to.

Breastfeeding may also help chil­dren avoid a host of dis­eases and con­di­tions that strike in later life in­clud­ing di­a­betes, high choles­terol and in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease. Breast feed­ing low­ers a mum’s risk of breast cancer, ovar­ian cancer, os­teo­poro­sis, car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease and obe­sity.

World Breastfeeding Week is or­gan­ised by the World Al­liance for Breastfeeding Ac­tion (WABA), and is in­tended to bring part­ners to­gether to sus­tain breastfeeding. The cam­paign high­lights that breastfeeding aids the survival of in­fants and helps them thrive while bring­ing long-term ben­e­fits for women.

The WABA is striv­ing to cre­ate a so­ci­ety and phys­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment in which breastfeeding can thrive in a world with­out poverty and hunger. It is work­ing to cre­ate the right con­di­tions for good health and well­be­ing, and responsible con­sump­tion and pro­duc­tion of food.

It is also cam­paign­ing to nor­malise breastfeeding in pub­lic.

Of course, breastfeeding isn’t a bliss­ful ex­pe­ri­ence for all new mums. It can be tir­ing, un­com­fort­able and less than en­tirely suc­cess­ful – es­pe­cially at first. For­tu­nately, there is lots of help­ful ad­vice on the NHS Choices web­site.

Sum­ming up, there’s no doubt that breast is best but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that any breastfeeding is way bet­ter than none at all. And it’s also im­por­tant to bear in mind that the vast ma­jor­ity of ba­bies thrive even if breastfeeding isn’t sus­tained for any length of time.

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