Breast feeding boosts babyís immunity, prevents celiac disease

Mother's milk is best for the baby and the benefits of breastfeeding are well-established. Breast milk is natural, easy to digest and is the gold standard for infant nutrition. It contains the right balance of nutrients for the infant and helps boost the baby's immunity. However, under certain circumstances you may need to consider formula feed.

Exclusive breastfeeding is typically recommended for the first six months, to be continued at least for one year in combination with solid foods. Breast milk is sterile and does not require boiling, and therefore retains the goodness of its nutrients. It also prevents infections common in formula fed babies due to poor hygiene and unsafe feeding practices. According to experts from the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, significant compromise is made on the infant's health, as mother's milk is substituted for formula milk due to various reasons in the first year of life when they are most vulnerable to infections. A recent study reported that only 69 per cent of Indians below two months get exclusive breastfeeding and between two and three months, exclusive breastfeeding falls to 51 per cent and declines to 28 per cent for five-month-old babies.

Besides optimal nutrition of carbohydrates (lactose), proteins, fats, iron and calcium, mother's milk provides special immuno-boosting IgA and IgB factors not found in formula milk. These are believed to have life-long immunity benefits.

In fact, infant feeding practices have been found to impact several immunological conditions including celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition where an individual is intolerant to gluten for life. Gluten is a protein found in cereals like wheat, oats, barley, rye and some others. A person suffering from celiac has to avoid these grains for life. Eating foods with gluten causes an immune reaction in the small intestines. This can damage the lining of the intestines and lower absorption of essential nutrients, leading to mal-absorption and nutritional deficiencies.

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