Hormonal changes in pregnancy prepare women's bodies for breastfeeding. Breastmilk constituents provide all the nutrients a baby needs to grow and develop for the first 6 months of life. Breastfeeding has been shown to protect against gastrointestinal infections and malnutrition with estimates indicating that globally up to 820,000 infant lives could be saved annually if breastfeeding reached universal levels. WHO therefore recommends babies to be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life. For women, making the decision to breastfeed is a very personal matter that may be influenced by numerous factors. For women living in LMICs and those displaced by humanitarian emergencies breastfeeding has great potential to reduce rates of newborn morbidity and mortality. It is imperative that health care professionals caring for pregnant, laboring and postnatal women are able to share knowledge about the significant benefits of breastfeeding and provide the required support and assistance to enable women to breastfeed. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has taken great strides in improving breastfeeding rates, but this has mainly been realized in high-income countries. Upscaling rates of exclusive breastfeeding in LMICs requires leaders and policy makers to identify interventions that will fit with their local context and needs.
|The Continuous Textbook of Women’s Medicine Series
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