Breast milk increases immunity in children

New-born children after birth should be given exclusive mother's milk for first six months because it increases their body's resistance and immunity for rest of their lives. "Breast milk not only protects a child from pneumonia but also many other infections. Breast milk increases body's immunity of a child. That is why risk of contracting pneumonia in exclusively breastfed children is less compared to those children who don't get exclusive breast milk during first six months of their lives. Apart from exclusive breastfeeding there are many other steps one can take to protect children from pneumonia such as protecting children from cold exposure" said a noted paediatrician from Gorakhpur Dr KN Dwivedi.

Awareness about breastfeeding has increased over the past years. "Patients are more aware and conscious of breastfeeding their child. They are more likely to be aware about the benefits of mothers' milk for a new born child. The women who have newly become mothers and have just-delivered are eager to learn correct method of breastfeeding. Doctors are also promoting breastfeeding among their patients. There is no doubt that exclusive breastfeeding has gone up over the past years" said Dr KN Dwivedi.

"Most of the mothers are breastfeeding their newly born children but there are still some who aren't doing so in the slum I live in. There are lot of programmes raising awareness about breastfeeding and its benefits for the newly born child due to which number of children being breastfed has gone up" said Pradeep Srivastava, a slum-resident from Gorakhpur.

Another slum-resident Indravati shared her experience when her grandson contracted pneumonia. "My grandson got pneumonia and developed serious breathing problems, was out of breath, pain in abdomen and fever. Doctors said that due to exposure to cold weather the child has developed pneumonia. This grandson was breastfed for 5-6 months and then switched over to cow's milk" said Indravati. It should be noted that exclusive breastfeeding is taken as synonym to breastfeeding with children getting fed honey, water, and other feeds due to a range of reasons including cultural, traditional or others.

Despite awareness about benefits of breast milk for the newly born child there are cases where mothers aren't able to breastfeed their child. The reasons might be different but the impact of children not getting breastfed is not desirable. "One of the biggest reason in my clinical experience for mothers not breastfeeding their child is lack of awareness. Still there are communities where awareness has to reach about benefits of breastfeeding. Most patients are able to understand the benefits of breastfeeding when it is explained to them. However there are traditional barriers too that at times prevent a child from getting breastfed. There are misconceptions too in our society that often refrain mothers from breastfeeding their children" said Dr Dwivedi.

Using bottles to feed milk to children is also not advisable. "We should avoid feeding milk to children using bottles as first of all, it is very difficult to ensure that bottles are adequately cleaned and sanitised. This increases the risk of children contracting infections during bottle-feeding which is detrimental to their health and a very undesirable happening. Secondly the risk of aspiration pneumonia in bottle-fed children is four-to-five times more than breastfed children. This is because the milk can go to the wind-pipe of the children when bottle-fed putting the child in danger" said Dr Dwivedi.

Children should be breastfed for the first six months of their life as it has a very positive, desirable and profound outcome on rest of their lives.

Jitendra Dwivedi – CNS
(Translation: Bobby Ramakant – CNS)