Over the past decades, evidence for the health advantages of breastfeeding and recommendations for practice have continued to increase. WHO can now say with full confidence that breastfeeding reduces child mortality and has health benefits that extend into adulthood. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the recommended way of feeding infants, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods.
Breastmilk is the natural first food for babies, it provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child's nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one-third during the second year of life.
Breastmilk promotes sensory and cognitive development and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea or pneumonia and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.
Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well-being of mothers, it helps to space children, reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, increases family and national resources, is a secure way of feeding and is safe for the environment.
While breastfeeding is a natural act, it is also a learned behaviour. An extensive body of research has demonstrated that mothers and other caregivers require active support for establishing and sustaining appropriate breastfeeding practices. WHO and UNICEF launched the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in 1992, to strengthen maternity practices to support breastfeeding. The BFHI contributes to improving the establishment of exclusive breastfeeding worldwide and, coupled with support throughout the health system, can help mothers sustain exclusive breastfeeding.
It depends on how much breast milk your baby is drinking.
After age 1, a baby might continue to regularly drink a moderate amount of breast milk. As a result, breast milk will continue to be a major source of nutrients for him or her. Other babies, however, might use solid foods to meet their nutritional needs and only want small amounts of breast milk.
If you have questions about your baby's diet or the role breast milk might play in it as he or she grows, talk to your baby's doctor or your health care provider.
It's often easiest to begin weaning when your baby initiates the process — which might be sooner or later than you expect.
Weaning often begins naturally at about age 6 months, when solid foods are typically introduced. Some babies begin to gradually transition from breast milk and seek other forms of nutrition and comfort closer to age 1. Others might not initiate weaning until their toddler years when they become less willing to sit still during breast-feeding.
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