Today marks the beginning of world breastfeeding week, which runs from 1 August to 7 August 2001. World breastfeeding
week is celebrated in over 120 countries throughout the world, and aims to generate public awareness and support for
Dietitians promote and support breastfeeding as being the ideal way to feed a baby, particularly during the first four
to six months of life. The main advantages of breastfeeding are:
- Breast milk meets all the nutritional needs of the full-term infant for the first six months of life.
- The baby easily absorbs the nutrients in breast milk.
- Breast milk can transfer immune factors to the baby and can, therefore, reduce the risk of infection.
- Breast milk contains the optimal amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids for brain development.
- Breast-feeding reduces the risk of food allergy.
- Breast milk is convenient and always readily available.
- Breast milk is safe, with a low risk of bacterial contamination.
- Breast milk is an economical and low cost way to feed a baby.
- Breast-feeding provides emotional and physical satisfaction to the mother.
- There is a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer in woman who have breast-fed their babies.
- Successful breastfeeding is compatible with a gradual reduction in the mother's weight, this may help achieve a return
to pre-pregnancy weight.
Breast milk can provide the major source of nutrients for the first year of life, although after six months of age it is
not enough on its own to meet all the nutritional needs of the infant and solid foods need to be introduced.
Women who are breast-feeding should ensure they eat a healthy balanced diet. They should eat according to their appetite
and should choose nutrient dense foods. It is particularly important to ensure an adequate intake of calcium, zinc,
vitamin A, and B vitamins along with sufficient fluids.
Although breast milk is the best food for babies, some mothers may find breastfeeding difficult, or may be unable to
breast-feed their baby for medical reasons. For these mothers, there are a variety of infant formulas available.
Mothers who are concerned about feeding their baby, or who would like some advice or information, are recommended to
contact their local dietitian, midwife, Plunket Nurse, Lactation Consultant or La Leche League. These health
professionals can provide information and assistance on overcoming breastfeeding difficulties, and can advise on infant
formula feeding if breast-feeding is not possible.