Since, pneumonia is mostly caused by bacteria and viruses, so breast milk reduces their risk in many ways by affecting their viability. Moreover, breast milk also plays an important role in providing respiratory and gut immunity, thus preventing pneumonia in a big way. It helps to develop resistance in the respiratory tract (lungs) which is the main affected organ in pneumonia.
The children who are not at all breast fed essentially during first six month of life are five times more susceptible to pneumonia which is the single biggest killer of children under five, than those who are breast fed. Sub-optimal breast feeding is a factor in 44% of all Acute Respiratory Infection deaths among infants. Globally, 62% of the children are not exclusively breast fed. There are innumerable myths about breast feeding which need to be dispelled. Suckling of milk does not deform the shape of the breast. Rather, breast feeding increases the involution of uterus. It brings the mother back to her normal physical shape much faster, than if she does not breast feed the child.According to Dr. Vijaya Mohan, a Paediatrician at Vivekanand Hospital, Lucknow, “There are some instances of people who feel that mother's milk is not a sufficient diet for the baby and he should be fed with top feeds in order to provide complete nourishment. But this is a misconception. The doctors should counsel the mother to allay these fears.” According to Dr. Y.C. Govil, Professor of Paediatrics in Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj Medical University, (erstwhile King George’s Medical College), "Bottle feeds and formula milk, certainly cannot be a replacement for breast milk, because no human endeavor can put those factors which the almighty has done. They may be sufficient in terms of nutritive value to some extent, but there are many other benefits of mother’s milk which the formula food cannot meet. Maternal and infant bonding cannot be provided by these foods. A lot of research has been done which has ultimately proved that Breast milk is the best milk.”
Awareness and education about exclusive breast feeding is the need of the hour. We should promote breast feeding and good nutrition for women in both rural and urban areas. There should be provision of flexi hours for working mothers. They should be made aware of the utility of breast pumps. Breast milk is the child's natural immunity and he should not be deprived of it. So let all women promote it, as it has many pros and no cons.
Shikha Srivastava - CNS