Let food be thy medicine

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A sacred bond is created during breastfeeding between mother and child

“In a healthy body is a healthy mind” is a famous Mongolian proverb. Healthy body begins with healthy diets including food passing from mother to child through the placenta and feeding newborn infants. Therefore, since the ancient times, Mongolians valued breastfeeding infants. It was said to have healing properties and would make their children healthy and strong.

However, through marketing of synthetic formulas, the use of infant formulas has increased significantly all around the globe. Studies found that in the 20th century, breastfeeding rate was about 90%, which has decreased to approximately 42% in the 21st century (National Center for Biotechnology Information). Hence, to increase awareness about breastfeeding, “World Breastfeeding Week” is celebrated every year from 1st to 7th August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

The World Breastfeeding Week was first celebrated in 1992, and currently more than 120 countries and international organizations like World Health Organization (WHO), World Vision and UNICEF are celebrating this event. This year, the theme of the week is “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – For Life!”

Many studies confirmed the growth, survival and health of breastfed children versus children who are fed milk substitutes are significantly different. Several studies suggest that breastfeeding has clear short-term benefits, particularly reducing morbidity and mortality due to infectious diseases in childhood. Optimal breastfeeding of infants under two years of age has the greatest potential impact on child survival of all preventive interventions, with the potential to prevent over 800,000 deaths (13 per cent of all deaths) in children under five in the developing world(UNICEF).

In addition, breastfeeding provides newborns the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond (WHO). Breast milk contains the optimal ratio of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and micro-nutrients that are necessary for a child's body. Thus, breastfeeding is important for child growth.

Furthermore, breastfeeding reduces the risk of diarrhea and respiratory infections as mother's milk contains antibodies that combat against infections and diseases (International Breastfeeding Centre). Thence, breastfed children are less likely to develop allergic diseases and asthma. Studies suggest artificially fed babies are at greater risk of gastro-intestinal infection, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, ear infections, allergic disease (eczema and wheezing), insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, sudden infant death syndrome and childhood leukemia (UNICEF).

Breastfeeding, also, contributes to maternal health of mothers. It prevents from postpartum hemorrhage (maternal postpartum bleeding), breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hip fractures and bone density (National Center for Biotechnology Information). Therefore, it is strongly encouraged for mothers to breastfeed their babies.

World Vision Mongolia’s Mother and Child Health, Nutrition Specialist E. Uranchimeg explains "Breastfeeding has a lot of health benefits for mothers as well as the infants. It has great impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development. Breast milk provides all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals an infant needs for growth. However, the most important benefit is the special bond it creates. [When a mother holds her baby for the first time and breastfeeds her baby, a magical moment takes place. It takes them to another dimension. A moment very magical,] this bond is priceless; something that lasts a lifetime."

Thus, world's most delicious, nutritious food is also the best medicine in the world - mother’s milk! Therefore, under the slogan “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – For Life!” let us promote breastfeeding in our communities for the well-being of mothers and children!

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