Friday, June 26, 2009


There was a time when parents were too much obsessed with the performance of their 'sons' in the school but with girls proving to be as much intelligent and carrier oriented as boys, the distinction between the gender is fast disappearing. Some of the high performing women in the global landscape are inspirational models for girls for achieving fame and glory in their life time. What factors decide, when a child is born, about its academic brilliance or otherwise? Is there any way one can foresee the future of that child? Probably to day's knowledge is inadequate to predict the future development of a child with any degree of accuracy. It is another matter that many parents rush to an astrologer to cast the horoscope of the child and get to know the its future based on planetary positions at the time of birth.

Mother's milk is known to be advantageous for babies especially to protect it from infections. Innumerable benefits of breast feeding can form a long list but it needs mention here when the subject is discussed. These include higher visual acuity, fewer episodes of year infections, less orthodontic problems, lesser instances of tonsillectomies, no upper respiratory infections, low cholesterol build up, fewer GI infections, reduced food allergies, less stress on kidneys, no appendicitis risk, lesser chances of kidney infections, lesser possibilities of development of arthritis, no eczema problem, no obesity and freedom from constipation. Thousands of scientific studies have confirmed the above attributes to the practice of breast feeding.

Through out history, mammals have practiced feeding of their off springs from their mammalian glands till the babies are weaned away. During thousands of years of human history, breast feeding was practiced till the child grows up to 7-8 years. Till the discovery of fire and domesticated production of food grains. many primates fed their babies till the eruption of the first molar tooth around the age of 5.5-6 years. To day this has come down to 6-9 months because of the pressures of modern living. Even to day Australian aborigines feed their off springs for 2-3 years, Greenlanders 3-4 years, Hawaiians 5 years and Inuits 7 years. Average interval between feeding is 24 to 80 minutes and WHO recommends 8-12 nursing over a period of 24 hours.

During feeding, first few mouthful of milk baby sucks, has less fat which increases towards the final stage of feeding. If nursing is cut short, baby does not get the best quality milk containing higher fat that is critical for many growth and development functions. Cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone secreted in the breast milk during sucking, induces sleep in the baby as well as the mother, considered essential for the well being of both. It reaches it peak at the end of the feeding first and then again peaks 30-60 minutes after feeding. CCK is involved in fat absorption in the intestine and baby gets the full benefits of the milk fat when its level is high. According to experts a feeding period of 2.5 years is ideal to get maximum benefit of breast feeding. Milk supply problem starts after 3 months when milk producing prolactin hormone level goes down and postpartum autocrine takes over in controlling supply. Prolactin receptors can be developed to higher levels by frequent feeding during the first few months.

During the first two years of a child's 'life, the brain grows rapidly and its every day's experience shapes the brain development. Brain cells, the neurons multiply and connect with each other until the brain circuitry resembles a mass of tangled wires. More frequent ingestion of milk and its faster digestion properties facilitate faster and more extensive connections amongst neurons. Probably this explains why breast fed children as they grow possess greater IQ as compared to bottle fed counterparts to the extent 7-10 on the IQ scale. Such children, almost 90% of them get higher grades in the schools and they are likely to climb the social ladder better. Breast milk is rich in Taurine, an amino acid, important in development of brain and eyes. Omega-3 fatty acids and galactose derived from lactose in the milk are also important for brain development. Docosahexanoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid is present at high levels in children fed on breast milk while the cholesterol present in the milk has critical role in building nerve tissues in the brain.

As an epilog it can be said that those mothers, who missed the pleasure and satisfaction of breast-feeding of their children to make them better performers, can think of making their daughters adopt the practice of breast feeding, post partem, for 2 years or more or at least for 9 months,to make their grand children healthy and super performers. We, at least, owe this to the future generation!


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