Breastfeeding also known as nurturing, is the process of delivering adequate and complete nutrient to an infant, to ensure healthy growth and development of the infant directly from the mother’s breast. It is a very important part of the reproductive system of a woman, with effect on the health of the mothers. The breast milk could be given directly or expressed either by hand or being pumped to be fed to the infant, breastfeeding is believed to be a natural act but it is also a learned behavior. Breastfeeding begins during the first hour of the birth of the infant to up one or two years of age.


It is the natural first food for infant that contains the entire adequate nutrient such as vitamin, water, protein and lipids, with a PH of 6.35-7.35. It is the only source of nutrient for infants that contain antibodies that help fight off infection. The main constituents are; immunoglobulin’s, glycoproteins, oligosaccharides, glycoproteins and immunocompetent cells. The breast milk also contains factors that help in the growth of the infants system. It is produced by the mammary gland located in the breast of a female breast. The only nutrient that breast milk doesn’t provide adequately to the infant is vitamin D.


The content of breast milk is mainly divided into three which are; Macronutrients, bioactive contents and micronutrients. This various composition helps in the proper healthy growth and development of an infant.


The macronutrients are the type of nutrients that the infant requires in large quantity, to maintain the system and growth of the structure of the infant’s body, and they also provide energy to the infant. The macronutrient of breast milk are; lipids, water, carbohydrates and protein.


The lipid makes up to 3-5% of breast milk; it is also a major source of energy that provides over half of the calories the infant gets. It helps in the development of the baby’s brain, sensory system and nervous system. It contains essential fatty acids, cholesterol and triglycerides. The high calories also helps in weight gain of an infant.


Breast milk contains about 87%-90% of water, which helps in lubrication of joints, regulation of body temperature, hydration and protection of vital organs in the body of the infant.


In breast milk, the main carbohydrate is lactose also known as a disaccharide which constitutes about 6.9% – 7.2% of breast milk that helps in the development of the brain of the infant, development of the bones by absorption of calcium and phosphorus and it fosters a healthy development of the digestive system. Oligosaccharide also known as complex sugar, the other type of carbohydrate contains about 1g/dl that acts as prebiotics, which feeds bacteria in the baby’s gut also helps in prevention of infections from flowing into the brain through the blood stream.


Protein composition is approximately 1% of breast milk, which helps in the provision of important amino acid for protein synthesis, production of antibodies in prevention of some infection, development of the immune system, fights against pathogens and yeast infection most importantly it is for the proper the build of the body of the infant. Proteins in the breast milk are; lysosome, albumins, lactoferin and immunoglobulin A.


Micronutrients are the essential nutrient needed in the body for proper growth and development in varying quantity, to maintain the normal physiological functions of the body.

The various micronutrient needed in the body of an infant are listed below;


The vitamins in the breast milk helps in development of the systems in the body especially the integumentary system, sensory system and muscular system. It also prevents malnutrition like scurvy, kwashiorkor, marasmus and rickety. The breast milk consists of vitamin A, Vitamin D, vitamin B1, Riboflavin and niacin. The optimization of vitamin K is low in the breast milk, so it is recommended that infants receive vitamin K injection to prevent hemorrhagic disease.  Vitamin D adequacy depends on how well the mother exposes herself to sunshine around the early hours of the morning between 8-10 am. Vitamin D supplements are recommended for the infants for proper vitamin D synthesis and prevention of vitamin D deficiency.


Minerals help in production of red blood cells for transport of oxygen throughout the body, build strong bones and also help in development of nerves in the body of an infant. Examples of minerals are; zinc, calcium, iron and magnesium.


Bioactive content are the contents that have positive impact on the overall health of an individual, the breast milk contains various bioactive contents that boosts the health of an infant, these contents are passed from the mother to the child which are hormones, enzymes and immunoglobulin. The immunoglobulin are antibodies that fight infection and build the immune system, it also helps prevent diarrhea, cold, ear infection and other infections. Immunoglobulin A is the primary antibody secreted which coats the baby’s lungs and intestines to prevent germs from flowing through the blood stream. The hormones help in regulating the body sleep pattern, appetite and also creating a special bond between the mother ant the child. They work by sending messages between the tissue and the cells.


The importance of breast milk cannot be overemphasized; there are various benefits to the mother and child which will be listed below:

To the mother

  1. It helps in promoting the bond and relationship between the mother and child, in fostering proper social and emotional development of the child
  2. It helps in reduction of postpartum hemorrhage and fastens the rate of uterine involution due to the increase concentration of oxytocin.  
  3. It reduces the risk of having ovarian and breast cancer.
  4. Breastfeeding also serves as a contraceptive method for the mother in family planning.
  5. It lowers the risk of having lower hip fractures and osteoporosis.
  6. It helps the mother snap back to her stature by helping in weight losss.
  7. it contributes to child survival by decreasing the mortality death rate of infant also decreasing health costs.

To the child

  1. Early initiation of breastfeeding helps in reduction of problems that can occur with feeding at night.
  2. It ensures proper growth and development of the infant by protection against infections; bacterial meningitis, ear infections, diarrhea, bacteremia and lower respiratory infections.
  3. It protects against Sudden infant death syndrome, childhood lymphoma and crohn disease, insulin dependent diabetes and asthma
  4. It enhances proper cognitive development of the infant.
  5. It reduces the risk of necrotizing enter colitis in premature babies.


The World Health Organization recommends that babies should be breastfed with only breast milk for the first six months, after six month weaning of the child can begin by introduction of food alongside with breastfeeding for one to two years or beyond. Exclusive breastfeeding can be defined as the intake of only breast milk with no inclusion of water, food or anything asides if drugs are prescribed by the doctor, to ensure health growth and development of the child for the first six months


The contraindications of breastfeeding are divided into two which are the maternal and infant contraindications.

Maternal Contraindication

  1. Mothers with Human immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
  2. Mothers who are infected with Active/ Untreated Tuberculosis
  3. Mother who are infected with herpes simplex; in this case if the breast is free of lesion and sores the baby can be breastfed.
  4. Mothers who abuses drug, marijuana, tobacco, cocaine and other harmful substances.
  5. Mothers who are undergoing chemotherapy.
  6. Mothers who have Human T-lymphotrophic virus.

Infant contraindication

Infants with galactosemia should not be breastfed because of the present of lactose in breast milk.


Effective positioning in breastfeeding is very important so as to prevent sore and cracked nipples also ensuring proper latching on to the breast by the infants. Various positioning used in breastfeeding are listed below with their pictures.

Cradle hold  position

  • Cross cradle position
  • Football Hold position
  • Twins cross Cradle Hold
  • Side lying position


  1. The baby doesn’t cry for food within 1-2 hours of been breastfed.
  2. The baby belches after each meal.
  3. Baby regains birth weight after 2 weeks of birth.
  4. Baby passes yellowish stool at least twice a day.


The complications of breastfeeding are listed below;

  1. Sore and cracked nipple
  2. Breast engorgement; when there is retained breast milk in the tissue of the breast that doesn’t completely empties causing pain and swelling. In this case the mother can make use of towel in warm water over the breast to allow emptying of breast milk, breast milk can be pumped out to relieve the mother of pain.
  3. Inverted nipples
  4. Ankyloglossia also known as tongue tie in babies
  5. Delay in production of milk from the breast
  6. Low milk supply from the mother due to some nutritional inadequacies
  7. Mastitis

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