Under the slogan “Breastfeeding: Foundation of life” the whole world has been invited to celebrate the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) from 1st to 7th August. This campaign is promoted by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) in cooperation with some institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nation Children´s fund (UNICEF) and several other institutions. As expressed at WABA´s webpage, the aim of this event is to protect, promote and support breastfeeding based in some strategies for children feeding rights worldwide.
Breastfeeding is still a controversial topic, even in the 21st century. For some cultures it has only social implications but, for others, is also a religious matter. One of the best examples is Islam.
In Islam, breastfeeding is considered a right given by God to the child. The breast milk is considered a source of nutrients that provides the infant all the necessary requirements for a healthy growing.
The Quran offers guidelines for both, mother and father, in the process of breastfeeding. If the mother’s milk is available, the islamic law recommends that the mother has to breastfeed the child for 2 years. During this time, the father has to support the mother with food and clothes. On the other hand, if the mother is not able to produce milk, a wet nurse could feed the child if both parents are in agreement.
Benefits for Child
Until now, researchers have collected a lot of information that also gives to breastfeeding a strong biological role. Research shows it has benefits for both, mother and child.
Among the benefits offered to the child are:
Reduction of infection rates
Breast milk, in contrast with formula, is not only a nutritional food, but also contains antibodies that confer immune protection by passive immunization. This protection varies from the start to the end of the breastfeed and depends on the immunological state of the mother. The colostrum (first milk) is the most important source of antibodies but mature milk also has an important role in long term protection. It also contains enzymes that help to eliminate microorganisms at the surface of stomach, avoiding their penetration into the body.
Decreased risk of suffering atopic diseases like asthma or atopic dermatitis
Despite studies being very controversial, the results suggest that breast milk protects the child from asthma and atopic dermatitis at the early stages of life (around 0-2 years). Nevertheless, this topic is still under study.
Better neurological development
Breast milk is rich in molecules like neuropeptides, hormones and growing factors. Some studies have suggested that breastfed children have higher cognitive functions and better scores in childhood and adolescence compared to formula fed children. These benefits are positively correlated with the time of breastfeeding.
Lower risk of obesity and its consequences
This benefit depends on two main factors: composition and related feeding behavior. Breast milk has a lot of molecules that positively regulate metabolism. Among them, leptin and ghrelin modulate food intake by controlling appetite. Also, hormones and growth factors regulate the metabolism and protect the child from cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. It is important to remark that this benefit depends on the nutritional state of the mother.
Benefits for Mother
Breastfeeding not only offers benefits to the child but also to the mother. Among them are:
Reduction of maternal bleeding, involution of uterus and delay of ovulation.
Post-partum weight control due to positive metabolic changes.
Reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases and breast or ovarian cancer.
As exposed above, breastfeeding is an important process on the child’s development. This WBW is an excellent opportunity to join to this campaign and help to promote this noble action worldwide.