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Explainer: Why Breast Milk is Important for Babies & Mothers

Photo Credit: UNICEF

Paynesville – In March this year, the public attention was directed to an important topic after news spread that the House of Representatives had passed a Bill geared toward promoting breastfeeding for children from one day old to six months. Although the Bill has not been accepted by the Senate before making way for the President to sign it into law and subsequent printing into handbill, the discussions around breastfeeding quickly became a topical issue with some people asking about its significance to the nutrition and growth of newborn babies.

Report By Grace Z. Gaie | LVL Fact Checker

In this explainer, we will tell you why a mother’s breastmilk is important for the health of her baby. And herself.

What Nutrients are in a Mother’s Breastmilk?

Proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates are some of the nutrients that can be found in a mother’s breastmilk. There are two types of proteins that are contained in breastmilk: whey and casein – 60 % of the protein in the breastmilk is whey while 40% is casein. Doctors say this balance of the proteins allows for quick and easy digestion.  These proteins have great infection-protection properties, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

For the fats found in the breastmilk, it is very important for the development of a child’s brain and helps the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and it is a primary calorie source while the vitamins found in the breastmilk – vitamins A, D, E, and K – are all vital to the infant’s health.

Lactose is the primary carbohydrate found in a mother’s milk, accounting for approximately 40% of the total calories provided by breast milk. Lactose helps to decrease a large number of unhealthy bacteria in the stomach, which improves the absorption of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.  It helps to fight disease and promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach.

These are important nutrients that are found in breastmilk which makes it very essential for babies health when they are fed for recommended period of time.

Why is Breastfeeding Important for Babies

One of the most important benefits of breast feeding is that it is a great way for mothers to bond with their babies . It also supports the mental health of the baby and mother, making it the ideal food for any baby.

According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure a child’s health and survival. Breast milk protects them from illnesses like obesity, running stomach, type one diabetes, severe lower respiratory disease, Acute otitis media or ear infections amongst others.

Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life, according to the WHO. The global health body adds that children who are breastfed most likely perform better on intelligence tests; “they are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life.”

UNIECF also suggest that breastfeeding protects children from a vast range of illnesses, including infection, diabetes, asthma, heart disease and obesity, as well as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Also, the WHO, citing a 2016 study published in the Lancet, states that increasing breastfeeding rates around the world could prevent 823,000 annual deaths in children younger than five years and 20,000 annual maternal deaths from breast cancer.

Dr. Ruth Petersen, Director of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explains that “Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers”.

“It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed,” Dr. Petersen wrote on the CDC website.

Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Does Breastfeeding Benefit Mothers?

Yes, breastfeeding is also very important for new baby mothers. The CDC also considers breastfeeding as “an investment in health and not just a lifestyle decision of the mother”.

And doctors have also advised that breast feeding provides a lot of benefits for mothers including reducing their risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Study shows that breastfeeding helps a mother to burn around 500-700 calories a day — this is equivalent to 45 minutes of a medium-intense exercise. It also helps baby mothers manage or lose postpartum weight. 


Breast milk is very much important for every child — from zero to six months and beyond.  Breast milk keeps babies healthy by protecting them from variety of diseases. Breastfeeding mothers also enjoy low risk of experiencing certain health conditions. All of these make breastfeeding an essential and healthy process for both the mother and child. This makes it very important for every mother to breastfeed her child from zero month to at least six months.

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Local Voices Liberia is a network of dedicated Liberian journalists based in the 15 counties working to lift the development concerns and progress of rural communities.

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