Proper nutrition during the first year of life plays a vital role in the future growth and development of a child. In addition to meeting nutritional needs, positive feeding experiences can enhance fine motor skills and provide social interaction during infancy.
Human milk is uniquely superior for infant feeding and is species-specific; all substitute feeding options differ markedly from it. The breastfed infant is the reference or normative model against which all alternative feeding methods must be measured with regard to growth, health, development and all other short and long term outcomes.
Epidemiological research shows that human milk and breast feeding of infants provide advantages with regard to general health, growth and development while significantly decreasing risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases. Research in the United states, Canada, Europe, and other developed countries, among predominantly middle-class populations, provide strong evidence that human milk feeding infection, Otitis media, bacteremia, bacterial meningitis, botulism, urinary tract infection and necrotizing enterocolitis. There are a number of studies that show a possible protective effect of human milk feeding against sudden infant death syndrome, insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, Crohn's disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Lymphoma, allergic diseases, and other chronic digestive diseases, Breast-feeding has also been related to possible enhancement of cognitive development.
There are also a number of studies that indicate possible health benefits for mothers. It has long been acknowledged that breast-feeding increases levels of oxytocin, resulting in less postpartum bleeding and more rapid Uterine involution. Lactational amenorrhea causes less menstrual blood loss over the months after delivery. Recent research demonstrates that lactating women have an earlier return to pre-pregnant weight, delayed resumption of ovulation with increased child spacing, improved bone re-mineralization postpartum with reduction in hip fractures in the post-menopausal period, and reduced risk of ovarian cancer and pre-menopausal breast cancer. In addition to individual health benefits, breast-feeding provides significant social and economic benefits to the nation, including reduced health care costs and reduced employee absenteeism for care attributable to child illness. The significantly lower incidence of illness in the breastfed infant allows the parents more time for attention to siblings and other family duties and reduces parental absence from work and lost income. The direct economic benefits to the family are also significant. It has been estimated that the 1993 cost of purchasing infant formula for the first year after intake is no greater for the breast-feeding mother than for the non-lactating mother. After that period, food and fluid intakes are greater, purchasing formula. Thus, a saving of greater than $400 per child for food purchases can be expected during the first year.
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