Breastfeeding is vital for healthy growth in babies, so a newborn should be given only breast milk for the first six months and continue to have it along with other food until the age of two, according to a Turkish gynecologist.

“Apart from boosting growth and development, breast milk also protects the baby against ear, intestinal, and respiratory infections. It reduces the risk of allergies, asthma, diabetes, and obesity,” Prof. Dr. Ozlem Evliyaoglu Bozkurt told Anadolu Agency.

Bozkurt, who is associated with the Saglik Bilimleri University in Turkey’s capital Ankara, was speaking in connection with World Breastfeeding Week, marked annually from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7.

She stressed that breast milk provides all the water, energy, and nutrients that a baby needs in the first few months.

“One of the things that make it almost miraculous is that the content of breast milk can change according to the development of the baby, and it may differ with the baby’s needs,” she said.

“In recent studies, the risk of sudden infant death syndrome was found to be very low in babies who were breastfed for at least two months.”

Bozkurt said these babies were also found to be more successful in intelligence tests at later ages, while IQ scores of children breastfed for more than six months were found to be three to five points higher.

Benefits to mothers

Breastfeeding strengthens the emotional bond between mothers and babies, helps reduce a mother’s stress and anxiety levels, and can improve her overall mood, according to Bozkurt.

“Breastfeeding consumes energy and can lead to an average of 500 grams [1.1 pounds] of weight loss each month. In the long term, it reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as cardiovascular and rheumatic diseases,” she said.

She added that breast milk is also vital for the baby’s gut health, especially in the first few months of life.

“Breast milk is the first and most important prebiotics and probiotics. It is estimated that there are more than a thousand bacterial species in the human intestinal microbiota,” Bozkurt explained.

“Microbiota development is thought to be an important determinant of the development of the immune system of the newborn and future health of the child.”

* Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur

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