Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants. It is safe, gives babies the nutrients they need for healthy development and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses, says World Health Organization.

In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness.

"It is estimated that around 35 percent infants up to six months are exclusively breastfed in the world today," says Dr Elizabeth Mason, Director of WHO's Department of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Development. "But if all babies and young children were breastfed exclusively for their first six months of life and then given nutritious complementary food with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age, the lives of an additional 1.5 million children under five would be saved every year."

It is worthwhile to recapitulate on a few of the innumerable benefits of breastfeeding in the backdrop of WHO's World Breastfeeding Week celebrations on the go from August 1 to 7 in more than 170 countries:

1. Breast milk is easily digested. Its components - lactose, protein and fat - are easily digested by a newborn's immature system so breastfed babies have fewer incidences of diarrhea or constipation Breast milk is always fresh and readily available

2. Breast milk has the right temperature and is always fresh and readily available

3. Breast milk protects the baby against allergies, asthma, diabetes, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

4. Breast feeding helps enhance the emotional connection between mother and infant thereby increasing the bonding process

5. Breast milk contains antibodies to protect the baby from many conditions such as ear infections, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and meningitis.

6. Breast milk contains new antibodies whenever the mother is exposed to new infections

7. Breastfeeding may boost child's intelligence; various researchers have found a connection between breastfeeding and cognitive development

8. Breastfeeding may protect child from obesity. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as a way to help reduce your child's risk of becoming overweight or obese

9. Researches show breastfeeding can reduce nursing mothers' stress level and risk of postpartum depression (depression following child birth)

10. Studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer such as breast and ovarian cancers