Breast Feeding: Foundation of Life

August 20, 2021

Exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) has important benefits for both the mother and child. The first 1000 days (between conception and a child’s second birthday) provides a unique period of opportunity for optimum child growth and development and also establishes the foundations for good health across the life course. Essential components of infant and young child feeding practices (IYCF) include timely initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for the first 6 months of life and continued breastfeeding until the child is 2 years of age. EBF (defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast milk for the first 6 months of life, with no other food or water added) is the cornerstone of optimum infant nutrition.

Notably, EBF reduces the risk of the infant to experience diarrhea diseases, upper respiratory tract infections, obesity in later life and EBF could improve the neurocognitive functions of the child. The neonate has an immature immune system and colostrum, a powerful immune booster, protects infants from infections by means of bioactive factors and secretory IgA antibodies. Breast milk with its abundant source of immunoglobulins, lactoferrin, lysozyme and cytokines play an important role in absorbing and engulfing harmful micro-organisms and targeting specific bacteria and providing protection by regulating the immune response. Human milk oligosaccharides, abundant in human milk, shape the microbiome, provide probiotics and modulate the developing immune system also displaying anti-adhesive effects for bacterial antigens. All the above are compelling reasons for every infant to receive only breast milk and preferably their own mothers’ milk. However, despite these obvious benefits and numerous recognized advantages of appropriate feeding practices, the rates of EBF in India is seen to be depleting, especially among working mothers.

In India, exclusive breastfeeding is inadequate as only 55% of babies are exclusively breastfed (0-6 months) and 41% are able to begin breastfeeding within an hour of birth. According to a new study on the cost of not breastfeeding and an accompanying tool, annually, inadequate breastfeeding results in 100,000 preventable child deaths (mainly due to diarrhea and pneumonia), 34.7 Million cases of diarrhea, 2.4 Million cases of pneumonia, and 40,382 cases of obesity in India. Health impact on mothers is more than 7000 cases of breast cancer, 1700 of ovarian cancer and 87000 of type- 2 diabetes.

Exclusive breastfeeding among children 0–6 months of age was widely practiced in most states in the first month of life. However, EBF declined with each additional month and by the time infants are 6 months of age, exclusive breastfeeding rates were low. The proportion of infants exclusively breastfed was significantly greater in rural areas than those from urban place of residence. The rate of EBF in India continues to be sub-optimal with no appreciable gains in the last 13 years. The factors identified with non-compliance of EBF were living in urban areas, shorter birth intervals and belonging to higher wealth index.

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating global disruption, causing markets to plummet and generating many questions in every area of life-health care sector in particular. Since March 18th, 2020, the WHO recommends that women with COVID-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so, based on the idea that through breastmilk the babies would get antibodies and anti-infective factors that help protect newborns from getting infections. The WHO encourages women to breastfeed or to continue breastfeeding following certain recommendations and precautions. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the international organizations continue to promote breastfeeding.

The best way to promote successful breastfeeding, is to ensure that the mother-infant dyad is kept together, and skin-to-skin contact is supported and encouraged. Skin-to-skin is the safest and best transition for mothers and their infants to a new life together. Skin-to-skin also increases blood glucose levels 75–90 min after birth, improves cardiorespiratory stability and significantly reduces stress levels in the infant and mother. Keeping mother and infant together can reduce birth stress and even prevent neurodevelopmental disorders in the infant. The smell, touch and voice of the mother naturally calms the infant.

EBF needs to be supported through an integrated approach meeting the different needs, regions and especially in states with high neonatal mortality rates where these practices are deficient. Several successful intervention models and strategies to promote EBF have been evaluated and there is a need to scale-up and implement the most appropriate and culturally acceptable ones to universalize optimal infant feeding practices. In addition, providing maternity entitlements to women would actualize the rights of mothers and infants to breastfeed.





By Dr Faroq Syed
Dr Faroq Syed is consultant neonatology at KMC Hospital, Mangaluru.
To submit your article / poem / short story to Daijiworld, please email it to mentioning 'Article/poem submission for daijiworld' in the subject line. Please note the following:

  • The article / poem / short story should be original and previously unpublished in other websites except in the personal blog of the author. We will cross-check the originality of the article, and if found to be copied from another source in whole or in parts without appropriate acknowledgment, the submission will be rejected.
  • The author of the poem / article / short story should include a brief self-introduction limited to 500 characters and his/her recent picture (optional). Pictures relevant to the article may also be sent (optional), provided they are not bound by copyright. Travelogues should be sent along with relevant pictures not sourced from the Internet. Travelogues without relevant pictures will be rejected.
  • In case of a short story / article, the write-up should be at least one-and-a-half pages in word document in Times New Roman font 12 (or, about 700-800 words). Contributors are requested to keep their write-ups limited to a maximum of four pages. Longer write-ups may be sent in parts to publish in installments. Each installment should be sent within a week of the previous installment. A single poem sent for publication should be at least 3/4th of a page in length. Multiple short poems may be submitted for single publication.
  • All submissions should be in Microsoft Word format or text file. Pictures should not be larger than 1000 pixels in width, and of good resolution. Pictures should be attached separately in the mail and may be numbered if the author wants them to be placed in order.
  • Submission of the article / poem / short story does not automatically entail that it would be published. Daijiworld editors will examine each submission and decide on its acceptance/rejection purely based on merit.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to edit the submission if necessary for grammar and spelling, without compromising on the author's tone and message.
  • Daijiworld reserves the right to reject submissions without prior notice. Mails/calls on the status of the submission will not be entertained. Contributors are requested to be patient.
  • The article / poem / short story should not be targeted directly or indirectly at any individual/group/community. Daijiworld will not assume responsibility for factual errors in the submission.
  • Once accepted, the article / poem / short story will be published as and when we have space. Publication may take up to four weeks from the date of submission of the write-up, depending on the number of submissions we receive. No author will be published twice in succession or twice within a fortnight.
  • Time-bound articles (example, on Mother's Day) should be sent at least a week in advance. Please specify the occasion as well as the date on which you would like it published while sending the write-up.

Comment on this article

  • Stephen Dsouza, Dubai / Bangalore

    Sat, Aug 21 2021

    Nice Article on breast feeding in these times of our generation. I have come across many mothers who are not able to feed their new Born's due to lack of breast Milk. some opt for local home made medicines to increase the milk content , others start feeding with milk powder . My concern is how do you create awareness on importance of Breast feeding and what measures can mothers take to have a good amount of breast milk. Olden days we never had these issues and babies were healthy enough and never had too many health complications .

  • Rita, Germany

    Sat, Aug 21 2021

    Thank you for your article.Sure since olden days breast feeding is the safest and best way to still the hunger of a baby.Besides it its effect on mum and baby ,to be closer contact between the two,has also effect to contract the uterus soon after the milk in this world can be safer to a infant than mother milk..Many times industry milk gives rise to reaction on the baby and get reaction .Have to be careful.Sadly nowadys mothers cant feed their child like priviously in vlaages because mum too must work and bring money home.Baby who had mother milk for long hardly get sick in first six months.Unfortunately somewomen dont feed child because of their figur.Now it is a fashion either not to get pregnent because of their figur?,or to be in fashion world.One thing they miss here ,will be hardly that love ,skin contact with child,emotions ,miss badly with a adapted child whatever the cause may be.whereas breast fed ones are missing their mum later even in elder years ,by not seeing for long times.

Leave a Comment

Title: Breast Feeding: Foundation of Life

You have 2000 characters left.


Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.

Please note that sending false messages to insult, defame, intimidate, mislead or deceive people or to intentionally cause public disorder is punishable under law. It is obligatory on Daijiworld to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request.

Hence, sending offensive comments using daijiworld will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.