We’ve all heard that “breast is best” and that breast milk provides infants with a nutritionally balanced diet. But why is breastfeeding so important?
The Nutrition Information Centre, University of Stellenbosch (NICUS) lists the following advantages of breastfeeding for mothers and children:
- Breast milk is nutritionally superior to any alternative.
- It contains all the nutrients that the baby needs for the first 4-6 months and it is quickly and easily digested.
- The most suitable protein and fat for the baby, in the right quantities.
- It contains lactose (milk sugar) which is the form of sugar that a human baby needs.
- Enough vitamins for the baby.
- Iron in breast milk is well absorbed and prevents the breastfed baby from developing iron deficiency anaemia, provided that proper and sufficient weaning foods are introduced at the age of four to six months.
- Enough water for the baby, even in hot, dry weather.
- The correct amounts of salt, calcium and phosphate.
- A special enzyme (lipase), which digests fat.