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World Breastfeeding Week – Breastfeeding linked to higher IQ


Jakarta, IO – 1-7 August is commemorated as World Breastfeeding Week each year. This year’s theme is “Enabling Breastfeeding, Making a Difference for Working Parents”, with the focus on breastfeeding support for mothers in the workplace. It is important for employers to support nursing mothers by having policies such as maternity leave for at least 18 weeks, or ideally, more than six months, as well as facilities that support breastfeeding in the workplace. 

Mother’s milk is the best food for a baby. It contains various macro- and micronutrients that babies need to remain healthy and grow, including carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Newborn babies up to six months old only need to be fed mother’s milk exclusively, i.e. no additional foods or drinks. After all, 90% of mother’s milk is water, so there is no need even to give more water to the baby. 

Why must babies be breastfed? “According to multiple studies over the years, the provision of breast milk helps babies have better IQ, bigger brains, and better brain white matter. Breastfeeding is related to improved performance in intelligence tests 30 years after birth, and it might greatly affect the baby as an adult by improving its educational performance and earnings. Babies given mother’s milk have a higher IQ test score (35 versus 23) and social intelligence score (78 versus 55), or on average higher than babies given formula milk,” responded dr. Maharani Bayu, M.I.Kom, IBCLC, Sp.Rad, Head of the Banten branch of the Indonesian Breastfeeding Counsellors’ Association (Ikatan Konselor Menyusui Indonesia–IKMI), in the “Exclusive Mother’s Milk, Smart Investment for Healthy, Intelligent Children with Character” online seminar organized by the National Population and Family Planning Board (Badan Kependudukan dan Keluarga Berencana–BKKBN) in Jakarta, Tuesday (1/8/2023). 

Other than for a baby’s health, mother’s milk also benefits the baby’s physical and psychological conditions. It helps prevent obesity and improve the body’s immunity, which is especially important among premature babies, and reduces the risk of asthma and allergies as the baby grows. Multiple studies have also shown that children who obtain mother’s milk have better cognitive performance and socio-affective responses. This will help lower the risk of mental problems among children and teens later. 

dr. Maharani Bayu, M.I.Kom, IBCLC, Sp.Rad
dr. Maharani Bayu, M.I.Kom, IBCLC, Sp.Rad (Source: Twitter)

Positive Stimulation 

According to the WHO, the golden standard of mother’s milk as baby food starts with early nursing initiation, immediately after the baby is born. Mothers should give milk exclusively until the baby is six months old. Supplemental baby food is given alongside mother’s milk after the baby is six months old, and the baby continues to have their mother’s milk until they are weaned at the age of 24 months. 

“Please remember that supplemental baby food is not a replacement for mother’s milk! It should not be instant food or formula milk either – we recommend giving homemade food to your baby for this purpose,” dr. Maharani said. 

All mothers of newborn babies would like to give their milk to their babies, but many mothers complain of problems when they try to nurse: the baby does not nurse optimally, the baby’s weight won’t increase with just milk, insufficient production of mother’s milk, abraded nipples, the baby is grumpy, they won’t nurse, etc. And these are just natural problems, not including the complications that will arise when the mother is holding down a job. 

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She requests that when they face problems, nursing mothers should immediately contact nursing counselors, lactation counselors, and nursing mother support groups. “Mothers will produce milk better if they undergo the stages of early nursing initiation, such as having skin to skin contact with the baby; giving milk directly, not through a bottle; learning the correct way to stick when nursing; routinely emptying the breast of old milk; and of course, consuming healthy foods. Nursing babies will stick properly if you use the CALM-silent method: Chin sticking to the breast; put in as much of the Areola into the baby’s mouth as possible; open the Lips upwards; open the Mouth wide; and ‘silent’ means that there are no sounds other than swallowing. Proper nursing of the baby is done until they are 24 months old. This is related to the baby’s oral development and hygiene,” she said. 

Other than benefiting the baby, nursing is also beneficial to the mother. It reduces the risk of ovarium cancer and breast cancer among mothers and helps maintaining the interval between pregnancies. Exclusive mother’s milk provision also stimulates hormones and helps ease menstrual problems. Mothers will also have a lower chance of having postpartum blues if they successfully nurse their babies, because the positive stimulation affects both mother and baby. (est)


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