24 March 2006

Breastfed babies more intelligent than bottle-fed ones

Breastfed babies are indeed healthier and more intelligent than bottle-fed ones, the PAWC Department of Health has confirmed.


Breastfed babies are indeed healthier and more intelligent than bottle-fed ones, the PAWC Department of Health has confirmed.

Healthy mothers have healthy babies
World Breastfeeding Week seeks to underscore the urgent need to protect, promote, and support the health and wellbeing of mothers as well as to protect, promote, and support the health and wellbeing of babies through breastfeeding. The goals are:

  • To reinstate breastfeeding as an integral part of women’s reproductive cycle and health.
  • To create awareness of women’s right to humane and non-invasive birthing practices.
  • To improve the Global Initiative for Mother Support for Breastfeeding as one way to strengthen the support for mothers.

Women in good health have the best chance to have healthy babies. Nevertheless, women who are not in optimal health still become pregnant, have healthy babies, and breastfeed successfully. This is a testament to the marvelous capacity and resilience of the female body! While all mothers need support in caring for themselves and their families, breastfeeding mothers should have extra support to maintain and promote their own health as well as to give the gift of life and breastmilk to their babies.

All pregnant women have a right to basic healthcare in order to promote healthy personal care and nutrition as well as to monitor for complications in mother and baby. Such care should include objective and factual information on:

  • The physical and emotional aspects of normal childbirth and breastfeeding.
  • Drug-free methods for managing problems in pregnancy and the work of labour and birthing.
  • Recognising and responding to unexpected complications.
  • The importance of colostrum and early breastfeeding.
  • The innate abilities of the infant at birth.
  • Techniques for effective breastfeeding and overcoming difficulties.

Childbirth different the world over
Normal pregnancy, labour, birth, and breastfeeding are interdependent experiences.

There is an increasing gap worldwide in the care of the birthing mother. On one hand, many women in resource-poor areas may give birth in unclean conditions without a skilled birth attendant. In such instances, breastfeeding shortly after birth can be vital to reducing post-partum bleeding and maintain the baby’s body temperature but may be constrained or delayed by giving teas or other fluids or withholding colostrum.

On the other hand, women in resource-rich areas may be inundated with medical technology and specialised health care that promote the use of unnecessary and excessive birth interventions in normal, healthy births.

Many harmful, ineffective, and inappropriately applied practices persist. In some settings they are being aggressively marketed to women and healthcare providers as being ‘convenient’ and ‘pain free’ without providing clear information on their impact on childbirth, babies and breastfeeding. In particular, narcotic and anaesthetic drugs given to mothers for labour pain relief can actually lengthen labour and increase the risk for other invasive and expensive procedures. These drugs also reach the foetus and can affect the newborn’s ability to breathe, suck, swallow, and thus breastfeed effectively.

Babies are born with the innate ability to find the breast, self-attach, and feed. Babies left in skin-to-skin contact with the mother remain warm and can more easily regulate breathing and heart rate. Breastfeeding in the minutes following birth can help expel the placenta, reduce bleeding and reinforce emotional attachment of the mother to the baby. If left undisturbed, babies may remain in an active, alert state from 40 minutes up to two hours after birth, after which they drop into deep sleep.

Breastfeeding facts

  • Exclusive breastfeeding meets all the nutritional needs of a baby for the first six months. Breastfeeding continues to make a significant contribution to the baby’s nutritional and emotional health into the second year and beyond.
  • Breastfed babies have stronger immune systems and are healthier than bottle fed babies.
  • Special fatty acids in breastmilk lead to increased intelligence quotients (IQs) and better visual acuity.
  • Research shows that breastfeeding can save the lives of over 1.5 million babies who die every year from diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.

Breastfeeding week focuses on lifesaving issues
The Integrated Nutrition Programme of the Department of Health has produced a set of posters in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa to market the following issues during Breastfeeding Week:

  • exclusive breastfeeding (i.e. no other drink or food is given)
  • correct positioning of baby to be breastfed.
  • expressing milk (when having to return to work)
  • extended breastfeeding to 2 years and beyond.
  • correct latching of baby to breast

Breastfeeding protects infants
Breastfeeding is a well-recognised means to protect, promote and support the health of infants and young children. Mother’s milk fosters optimal growth and development of a baby’s brain, immune system, and general physiology and is a vital factor in preventing common illnesses, especially diarrhoea and infections of the respiratory tract (including pneumonia), ear, and urinary tract. The act of breastfeeding releases growth hormones, promotes healthy oral development, and establishes a trusting relationship between baby and mother. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months reduces the risk of environment-borne illnesses, malnutrition, food sensitisation and allergies.

For Breastfeeding enquiries, phone:
Nicus on (021) 933 1408 or
Breastfeeding Association (011) 883 9873


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