babies, hands, lactation

Human Milk: A magic formula

Nowadays, women are entering the work force in greater numbers and need special support to be able to breastfeed exclusively.  Health care professionals can play a greater role in providing support, through influencing decision to breastfeeding. Therefore, it is critical for health professionals to have basic knowledge and skills to give appropriate advice to solve the feeding problems.

In Malaysia, the infant feeding practice is still sub-optimal. The third National Health and Morbidity Survey showed that, in 2006, whilst the ever breastfed rate is almost universal, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding below six months was only 14.5%.  In terms of complementary feeding, only 41.5% infants received timely complementary feeding and given to infants as early as two months of age.

Similarly in Hong Kong, Up to 73.3% of women who initiated breastfeeding after birth weaned their babies before six weeks, with different early weaning reasons observed at various time points. The most common reasons were insufficient milk supply (32.7%), tiredness and fatigue (30.6%) and return to work (29.6%). More guidance and education to mothers on optimal breastfeeding techniques, a balanced diet with enough fluids and breastfeeding room with facilities at work may help to address these problems.

Human milk is a dynamic bioactive fluid, it changes in composition throughout different stages of lactation to be uniquely suited for human infants, which is important for infant’s health and survival.

Evidence suggested that breastfeeding led to a slower weight gain in infancy and reduced obesity risk later in life by approximately 20%, whereas breastfeeding beyond 6 months reduced the risk by over 35%. Human milk is a dynamic substance and constantly changing to adapt to the developing infant’s needs, as evident from the variations in human milk macronutrient composition across different lactation stages. Breastfeeding was also related to other health outcomes such as type-2 diabetes. A systematic review showed that, compared with infants who were formula-fed, infants who were breastfed had a lower risk of type-2 diabetes in later life, suggesting that breastfeeding during infancy was associated with reduced risk of type-2 diabetes.

In addition to reducing morbidity and mortality, breastfeeding also promotes the child’s cognitive development, where it was found breastfed infants have IQ scores that are 2-3 points higher after entering adolescence and adulthood

In conclusion breastfeeding in Infants should be at least for the first six months of life, where breastfeeding is strongly encouraged to be exclusive for the first four months



Dr. Nicholas Ngeh
Consultant Obstetrician and  Gynaecologist

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