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Most people think that breastfeeding is just about feeding mother’s milk to an infant after the birth, but in reality it is more than that. Breastfeeding is a way of bonding that ensures a child stays close to the mother, wrapped in her warmth and gets all the nourishment needed when out of the womb. Technically, breastfeeding refers to the practice of feeding infants milk from the mammary glands. In fact, it is recommended that one should start breastfeeding immediately after the birth, even though this practice is not followed in most of the hospitals and maternity centers in India.
Breast milk is complete food an infant needs to survive and thrive, after birth. It contains nutrients that are vital during the initial months of her life. It contains protein, Vitamin A and salts that can be easily digested by the newborn’s delicate digestive system. The WHO recommends that a child should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of her life. Despite creating awareness among the masses, there is stagnation in the breastfeeding rates in developing countries like India. According to National Family Health Survey -3 (NFHS-3) data, 20 million babies are not able to receive exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and about 13 million do not get good timely and appropriate complementary feeding after six months in India.
Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the mother and the baby. While it helps in cognitive development, builds immunity and safeguards the baby from various infections and diseases, it helps the mother to shed weight, reduced risk of certain cancers including ovarian and breast cancer and lower chances of conception.