14.6  Benefits of early and exclusive breastfeeding

A mother is lying down on her side breastfeeding her newborn baby

Breastfeeding positions and good attachment of the baby are described in detail in the Postnatal Care Module, but you should lay the foundations during your antenatal care visits with pregnant women — especially those having their first baby. Whether the mother chooses to breastfeed her baby or she feeds a substitute for human milk, you should respect her decision. But she cannot make this choice if she has not been well informed by you about the benefits of early and exclusive breastfeeding. Explain to her that it:

  • Provides the best nutrition for the newborn
  • Is easily digested and efficiently used by the baby’s body
  • Protects against infection and other illnesses
  • Offers some protection against allergies
  • Is cost-effective and affordable
  • Promotes mother-baby bonding
  • Provides the woman with a degree of contraceptive protection (though less than 100% effective) if she is exclusively breastfeeding until her first menstrual period returns after the birth.

14.5  Immunization against tetanus

14.6.1  Unhealthy beliefs and practices about feeding newborns